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How do I describe my feelings for Lebron James? I can tell you that I've gone to sleep not speaking to my boyfriend ~5 times this playoff season because he disrespected Lebron. Or that when my friend Stefan said Lebron was the greatest athlete of all time I felt like he could have complimented him even more.

Because of my undying love and admiration for Lebron, I decided to try my first "sports biography" to try and advance my status as a basketball fan. I'd already committed to watching games everyday on League Pass, I went to a game in Toronto, I started a basketball podcast, lead a failed all-female rec league, AND spent my days reading long-form player profiles... this was the next step.

As a reader I usually avoid biographies (Meg and I have always leaned towards memoirs), but I decided it was finally time to start collecting player biographies and so I bought one on Michael Jordon (The Life by Roland Lazenby) and Return of the King: Lebron James, The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Greatest Comeback in NBA History by Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin. Once Lebron retires I'm sure he will write a memoir and I will be lining up at 5 a.m. to buy it.

What follows is less a book review than it is an open love letter to Lebron James:

I got into basketball after a particularly bad breakup. I didn't originally choose the Cleveland Cavaliers as my NBA team because of Lebron. I actually chose them because of a family connection between JR Smith, a shooting guard for the Cavs, and Chris Smith (JR's younger brother), a player on my local professional basketball team at the time. My second thought was "oh and Lebron James is on that team, even I know who he is." And yes, this was the year the Cavaliers became the 2016 NBA Champions.

So imagine I pick an NBA team, casually watch them play all year, AND THEN WATCH THEM COME BACK FROM A 3-1 DEFICIT TO BEAT THE GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, AS WELL AS COUNTLESS NBA RECORDS!!! This was the first championship for the city of Cleveland in 52 years. Naturally it can be assumed that I broke the Cleveland curse, and I've been in love with Lebron ever sense. His narrative is just too good.


Lebron is the greatest athlete of all time, better then any living or deceased athlete that ever stepped on a basketball court. He's in his 15th season and his story already reads like a beautiful piece of literature: he returned home, promised his native-state of Ohio he'd bring them a championship, and against all odds, he delivered.

But it's not just the pure athleticism that makes me so obsessed with him. It's him calling Donald Trump a "bum" on Twitter, his marriage to his high school girlfriend Savannah, and his ability to deal with pressure that would literally kill me. It's also the fact that Lebron hasn't even really done anything wrong ... I know this isn't really something that should be treated like an accomplishment, but in the world of celebrities it's often more rare than you'd like to think.

Return of the King opens up with a forward from Richard Jefferson which was only just okay. I do love Jefferson and I think he will make a great broadcaster, but his write up was a little too heavy on him telling everyone he was retiring and then taking it all back. I wanted more Lebron.

Windhorst and McMenamin's book never really gets too personal about Lebron, which was kind of disappointing. They try to paint you a good picture of what his mindset must have been when he "took his talents to South Beach" and what he was going through when he returned home to Ohio.


I will say that while this book was missing a lot of the personal details I hoped to learn about Lebron, I did learn A LOT of random stuff about players on the Cavaliers:

I learned that POS-Dan Gilbert bought the Cavs in 2005 for $375 million dollars. I got to read his disgusting letter calling Lebron "disloyal and a coward," which enraged me.

I learned how even though Lebron leaving made most of the world hate him, it was a big step for player freedom and autonomy in the NBA.

James had been badly burned by the Decision broadcast in 2010, even though he and his team still believed it was a forward-thinking idea that put the power in the player's hands. It had raised seven figures for charity and changed the nature of the way athletes looked at making big announcements." 
I learned that JR Smith "had been offended when he heard how the Knicks were basically attempting to give him away and attach him to Shumpert like a bad debt. [And that] he told Griffin he'd 'walk to Cleveland.'

I learned that Lebron watches games in the league CONSTANTLY. I know this sounds obvious but I think he watches more than any other player. He has a TV in his car with a game always on, and he's had family and friends waiting for him after one of his games while he sits in the locker room finishing up streaming a game on his phone. He once complained about the NBA app and some bugs it had and they quickly fixed it.

I learned that the San Antonia arena is hell on Earth.

AND I learned that Iman Shumpert delivered his wife's baby in their mansion and was directed over the phone to use a pair of headphones to sever the umbilical cord.

Other then all of this, I didn't take too much away from the book. It was a lot of describing how games ended - who had the last assist, who sunk the last shot. I found it pretty boring up until they get to Game 7 the year the Cavs win the finals.

I remember sitting on the edge of the couch at my parents house watching this game. My stomach was in knots and I kept saying "they aren't going to win" and my parents kept accusing me of "jinxing it" ... HOW WRONG THEY WERE.

Windhorst and McMenamin are good at bringing you back to that moment. They detail Lebron's infamous block of Andre Iguodala, Kevin Love's stop on Curry, Kyrie's 3-pointer, and the eventual meltdown after the win. While I was reading it I was kind of holding my breath - just like I was when I was watching the game live.

Winning the 2016 NBA Finals after a 3-1 deficit will always be Lebron's greatest achievement in my eyes. I know a lot of people are saying the fact that he dragged this year's shit team to the playoffs - after two Game 7 series, and a sweeping of the Toronto Raptors (lol) - is an amazing achievement (and it is), but nothing can amount to that 2016 win. Sometimes I sit at my desk and rewatch the last 8 minutes of that 2016 Game 7 and cry.

So overall I would say this was a not-great book about an all-time-great player. I want to end this review by saying may all the Lebron haters rot in hell.











We pretty much always have a book on the go and it's been that way since we were kids. For as long as we can remember our parents have also always been reading, whether it be while we were away on a family vacation or at home after eating dinner. I think we definitely started reading because we saw our parents doing it and they always encouraged us by buying pretty much any book we wanted at the Scholastic Book Fair.

Left: Meagan's sister Courtney, Meagan, Meagan's mom Sandra
Right: Meghan's mom Lynn, Meghan, Meghan's sister Julie


We thought we would use May and June to let you know what books they love. And if you haven't gotten your mom a gift for Mother's Day yet, well you're welcome! Here are some of our moms' favourite books and authors, there's definitely something here for your mom too


Thinking it was either 1985 or 1986 that I read this book.  That summer in my teens was when everyone I knew worked different hours at different jobs and I needed some way to kill the time.  My neighbour Mrs. Chisholm used to sit outside and read and gave me this book to see if I liked it. It was my first Danielle Steele novel and I loved it.   Although I don’t remember all the details of the novel as it was 30+ years ago, I do know that the story about Samantha and the emotional and physical struggles she goes through after her husband leaves her had me hooked.  I love romance and anything sappy and this introduction to Danielle Steele had me reading dozens more over the years. This memory will also always stay with me as such a wonderful way to spend time with one of the best women in my life.



How do I decide on which novel to talk about? They are all great! Lisa Genova graduated from Bates College with a degree in biopsychology and has a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard. Genova is a gifted writer who takes her knowledge and and understanding of neurological disorders, autism, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and recently ALS, and combines them to create heartwarming stories. She creates stories that take the reader through the journey of such illnesses from the point of view of the recipient of the illness to their family members and coworkers. I think my favourite book of hers has to be Love Anthony. I work with autistic children on a daily basis and this book helped to put things in perspective for me. Her books add the personal stories behind the disease and make you think twice when you hear of someone being diagnosed. 

I was excited to hear that she had published a new book entitled Every Note Played. I am just reading it now. It is about a famous pianist that has discovered he has ALS. The diagnosis is new to him and it will be interesting to see how he handles the news as well as his family. 


This seems like an unlikely favorite for me but somehow studying this novel in school made this novel stand out for me.  Not sure if this goes on in schools anymore, but this novel was read aloud in English class and I remember looking forward to that class each day.  This story is a true love story where 2 men (Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton) switch places so that happiness is found for the one woman (Lucie Manette) they both love.  Charles and Lucie marry but it is Sydney Carton who gives his life for her in the end. The book is set during the French Revolution and I am sure it was full of history but it was again the love story that had me hooked. Some of the other characters like Madame Dafarge who was always knitting also had me wanting to read more. When I was younger and still lived at home this popped up in our TV guide – the old paper kind – showing at 2am. I remember pulling out our sofabed couch and watching this movie in the wee hours with my Mom.  I am thinking I may have to read this book again.




I love to read all Nicholas Sparks books. I have to admit that they sometimes make me pull out the tissue box. They are an easy read and serve the purpose of relaxing and tend to take my mind off day-to-day worries. I don't like to watch the movies because if I cried reading the book then I will surely cry at the movie. And no one wants to see a grown woman cry at the theatre. Right Meghan and Julie? You can read more about his repertoire in the Nicholas Sparks




I am guessing that someone must have owned this novel and given it to me to read as I don’t think I would have ever bought this or taken it out from a library. I cannot remember how old I was when I read it but I do know that I was married with children and often read it at night when the girls were asleep which just added to the spookiness of it.

This book is about a blind girl named Amanda who walks with her cane on her familiar path near the tops of the cliffs each day.  One day the other children come and tease her and play tricks on her and Amanda falls off the cliffs and dies in the sea. This is how the book begins and then flashes 100 years ahead when a new family the Pendletons are moving into Paradise Point on these cliffs.  Their daughter finds a doll in the old house and calls it Amanda and of course she connects with dead Amanda and becomes friends. She has a fall off the same cliffs and injures herself and ends up also walking with a cane. Soon the kids begin to tease her and those that do end up dying mysteriously.  Not really sure why this book has stuck with me all these years but when someone is looking for a good spooky book it is one of my first suggestions.



I first read this book over ten years ago. Powning is a local author from New Brunswick where the story takes place. This book is about a woman named Kate who lost her husband and how she deals with the unexpected loss. It may sound depressing but it isn't. While cleaning out her attic she finds a box of letters from her grandmother which help Kate through the season of grief. Powning effectively uses nature to describe the emotions that Kate feels during this time. I think it's time that I dust this off and re-read it myself.



I think I have read every Judy Blume book written and some of my past favorites are Are you there God, it’s me Margaret, Blubber and of course Forever – the one we read in grade school and hid under our pillow when our mother walked in.  When Summer Sisters came out in 1998 I was very excited to read it. I know that Meagan has so not sure I can even begin to write anything remotely close to what she already has, nor do I want to try.  This novel is about friendship, love and being a parent. I think I have read it 3 times and when I get it back I would like to read it at least 3 more times. **note from the editor: you will not be getting this book back.



Well I hate to admit this but I like to read her books. After spending so much time reading stuff for school it is nice to sit down and not have to concentrate on what I read. At the end of her books I can't even tell you the name of the characters. Her books are purely for relaxation and only take a few days to read.



This was a novel I purchased in the airport convenience store before boarding a plane and picked it up because it was on the bestseller table.  I realized only after reading it that this was her debut novel and it was fantastic. This book is all about 4 siblings (Leo, Jack, Bea and Melody) in the Plumb family and how their lives unfold when their father dies.  They immediately start fighting over the inheritance and it takes us into the lives of each family member. I could relate to this novel being 1 of 4 siblings and found myself thinking about what would happen in our case down the road.  It was wonderfully written and I didn’t want to put it down. This book confirmed what I have always known, that it’s always family first above everything else including money.


The story of a little girl in China named Lily who is introduced to Snow Flower. Together they go through the foot binding process. The story follows their life through marriage, child birth, and everyday life in 1823. It is like a coming of age story. The two write secret messages in a secret language that no one else understands. They talk about their fears, their lives, and their hopes and dreams. The author depicts the differences in society and class in a heartwarming way. I have never read a story with such interesting details regarding the Chinese culture. The author has written other stories, however this is my favourite. 











This section was a lot more exciting than last week's.

One line I really liked was when Eddie was talking about life at war and on the ship, and how he starts talking about his messed up family life. Everyone on the ship pretty much just shrugs him off as if they've heard it before and Eddie thinks to himself "the war had made him ordinary."

I liked that line so much because this has got to be so true. Everyone is in this miserable situation and are only thinking about themselves. They miss their own messed up family and are probably sick of hearing about everyone else's.

I was really annoyed with Dexter forcing his way down on the dive ... of course this man doesn't care that it is incredibly dangerous and that not everyone can just pull it off on a whim. He threatens Anna's two friends and then says to them:

"You're in a different world right now, my friend. It may look like the one you know, may smell like it, sound like it, but what goes on here doesn't carry over. When you wake up tomorrow, none of this will have happened."

The final thing I will say is that when Anna and Dexter are down there searching for her father's body it really reminded me of stories Meg told me about when she was a life guard. They had to do a search for someone who had drowned and they would line up together and you would do something like 3 pulls forward, one back, waiting to see if they encountered a body. And how the whole time you were just hoping you wouldn't feel something in the dark water.









This was honestly such a weird book. I had no idea what I was expecting or why I wanted to read this but I asked for and received it for Christmas a few years back and only finally got around to reading it. The entire time it's been sitting on my shelf I swore it was non-fiction. I was very wrong.

As far as I can tell this is Miranda July's first novel, although she's written short stories before as well as numerous screenplays. The story follows a woman named Cheryl Glickman, who is middle-aged, unmarried, in a power position at her job, and has recurring sexual fantasies about a guy who's on the board at her company. Eventually her boss' angsty daughter moves in with her while she 'gets on her feet' and they begin this very bizarre, somewhat abusive, homosexual relationship.

Miranda July... that hair...


Cheryl works for a company that makes self-defense exercise type videos. The heroin in the video is 'attacked' by someone in a role play scenario and the sequence to fight off her attacker turns into a fitness routine... this in itself is weird enough. Cheryl and Clee (the boss' daughter) begin acting out these videos at their home and actually beating each other up to the point where they're both addicted to the adrenaline. It then becomes sexual. Even more weird, right? I am POSITIVE there is some underlying feminist message to this that is going completely over my head. This book was way too well-received and had too many reviews by Lena Dunham for there not to be something I'm missing here...

I really liked Cheryl's character at the beginning. While she was quirky as all hell, I felt she was very well-written and relatable. For one, she is psychotic in the pursuit of her crush. At one point he texts her saying he's off to do groceries and she prowls the grocery stores close to his house hoping for an 'accidental encounter' She is also lonely, feeling hopeless, and not extremely attractive. We should all be reading more Cheryl's and spending less time on the Instagram explore page. However, I feel like Cheryl lost this during and after the relationship with Clee. I'm going to spoil some of the plot here so beware... we eventually learn Clee is pregnant and her and Cheryl decide to raise the baby together. After the birth however, Clee, being still so young, falls into a depression. She doesn't want to be tied down to this middle-aged woman and a baby. It's at this point Cheryl becomes way too mature for my liking. Some could say this has to do with her new role as a mother, and doing what's best for their baby, but either way I didn't care for it.

Weathered and broken down by a burden so heavy that anyone could see it: here was a woman who hated her life. And this was how she planned to get through it, by sitting on the curb, smoking. How long had she been depressed? Months, that was obvious now. She'd been smoking out here since we brought Jack home. It must happen all the time, a fleeting passion overwhelms someone's true course and there's nothing to be done about it."

She eventually just tells Clee to go live her life, and I find this wildly unrealistic for someone who was so psychotic a year earlier. Clee has ruined her life at work (everyone looks down at Cheryl for pursuing a homosexual relationship with the boss' daughter and being showy about it at the office, as well as encouraging Clee to keep the baby and helping her raise it). I just find it hard to believe she would be so cool and collected about letting Clee just run off with a young twenty year old after all that... but alas... I do love this little passage:

We had fallen in love; that was still true. But given the right psychological conditions, a person could fall in love with anyone or anything. A wooden desk- always on all fours, always prone, always there for you. What was the lifespan of these improbable loves? An hour. A week. A few months at best. The end was a natural thing, like the seasons, like getting older, fruit turning. That was the saddest part- there was no one to blame and no way to reverse it."

Isn't this SO true? It's what I've always said about The Bachelor. Half the time the guys are gross but there's a real syndrome making all the girls love them anyways... It ought to be studied.

I didn't enjoy this book. It could just be because it wasn't at all what I was expecting when I picked it up, but I also just didn't really like the story. It was very weird and I wouldn't recommend anybody read it. Looking at some of July's other work, I honestly can't see myself trying anything new by her either. As I mentioned before, there has to be more to this book. I just didn't see it.








Surprisingly enough I'm really enjoying this so far. I say surprisingly because I'm normally bored of 'historical' war-time fiction. I think it must have to do with Egan. She is so descriptive with every character she introduces that I feel like I honestly know them. From Dexter's perspective especially I really loved this description of his brother in law:

'Sounds dangerous,' Cooper said with a glance at his father, although it wasn't clear whether he meant dangerous to the girls or to the world. Likely Cooper didn't know. He was a weaker, far less intelligent version of his father, the embodiment of the limitations of their breed... Cooper would never tell Arthur Berringer anything he didn't know, whereas Dexter saw and knew things the old man couldn't afford to, without personal compromise."

I also feel like I'm learning a surprising amount about the time period, which, shocker! is likely why people enjoy reading this genre. It's amazing to me how much work goes into rebuilding one single war ship... only for it to possibly get destroyed in a near instant.

I'm excited to find out what happened with Anna's dad... how he could possibly up and leave his family, especially when Lydia requires so much attention. I love the way Egan writes about Anna's acceptance of him leaving:

She had never cried. When she'd believed he was about to return there had been nothing to cry about, and when at last she'd stopped believing it was too late. His absence had calcified. When she caught herself wondering where he might be, doing what, she forced herself to stop. He didn't deserve it. That much, at least, she could deny him. She presumed her mother had made a similar passage, but she wasn't even sure. Her father had slipped from their conversation as ineffably as he'd dropped from their lives. It would feel odd to mention him now. And there was no need to."

One thing I know for sure is that Anna would handle a breakup WAY differently than I do. I think the strength she has here explains a lot about her job, and how she's going to pursue diving.

I'm wondering why Anna lied about who she was when she met Dexter... if that's related to her dad's disappearance... and how? I'm sure we're about to find out. I like to think if my dad went away for longer than he was meant to we wouldn't assume he had ABANDONED us but who knows...









I didn't love this section as much as the others only because we built up Anna and Dexter so much and then immediately abandoned that plot line to go back in time with Eddie. I didn't really care that much about Eddie's history but it was heartbreaking to read about his opinions on Lydia. I can only imagine how hard it would be to have a child who is sick, I assume you'd definitely blame yourself, but it really sucks that it inhibits the relationship you have with that child as well. It was crazy reading how he wished she'd just been a stillborn, but I think despite the guilt of thinking that, a lot of parents in similar situations probably share that sentiment at some point or another.

I don't really understand what's about to happen in the next section... is Dexter sending Anna down to dive for her dad's dead body? Is that what's going on?









I'm the wrong person to be writing this week's post because somewhere in the middle of this section I lost the plot. I'm not sure if Egan was switching time periods too quickly or between characters but I have no idea why Dexter died... I have no idea why her dad was killed and how he ends up at the bottom of that lake. Did she explain? Can someone explain it to me?

The scenes of them escaping via lifeboat brought back so many flashbacks to In the Heart of the Sea. I love to listen to Meghan recount the symptoms of dehydration for me from having read this book. The idea that your tongue turns rock hard is enough for me to have jumped off the boat. It's also crazy how despite KNOWING the salt water will make it worse, you almost can't help but drink it. Grown, smart, survival-inclined men will drink the ocean at a certain point when they get too thirsty.

One thing I found interesting is how cool Anna is about her relationship with Dexter. I mentioned this a few weeks back, how we don't see her super sexualized... until the softcore porn where they have sex... and then not again after. She doesn't seem shaken to see him or to dive with him, she isn't begging him to spend more time together, she doesn't appear to be angry with him for anything... it just seems like they are old friends who had sex and then now have a job to do...












I have to say I am very late to the game reading this, which was released back in 2013. I feel confident I didn't have the sense of humour to appreciate it in 2013 though, so I don't feel too bad about being late here. For those of you who don't know, Kelly Oxford is a Canadian screenwriter. I'm sure she won't take offense to me saying that she's mostly famous for being funny on Twitter, since I've never watched anything she's ever written. She's from Edmonton, Alberta and moved to California with her family to pursue her career in film. I think she's very cool although part of me does find her extremely annoying because she did all the things I'd never have the balls to do and found success out of it, and now gets to hang out with Busy Phillips all the time.

EIPWYAL is her first novel. It's very similar to the genre of celebrity memoirs I love the read where she outlines what her childhood was like and discusses her various relationships. I will say this is definitely at the top of the 'funny' list for this genre of reading. Because Oxford is not your typical big screen celebrity who is dripping in fame, her humour comes from a dry, sarcastic, and bitter place that I love. She is smart enough to recognize that she's not the richest or hottest woman in any room, but she's also mature enough to joke about it.

Kelly Oxford... obviously cool as all hell




Kids are animals. 'Juice!' eighteen-month-old Henry yells from his car seat as I buckle him in. 'Juice! JUICE! JUICE!' And he happily hands me a piece of snot, like it's a payment for all the things I've given him. They grow up so fast, people say. Not because children actually grow up fast, but because we mentally block out most of this shit show."

The chapters vary from starting a play in grade school to taking her kids to Disneyland. Naturally, the Disneyland chapter was my top favourite. I despise amusement parks, and Disney, being the busiest, most expensive one of the lot, is my arch enemy. Just thinking about the long lines, beating sun, $9 bottles of water, and grown adults in full animal suits makes my throat start to close up. I may actually be allergic to Disneyland. Anyways... Oxford writes about Disneyland the same way I think about it. She knew it was a childhood rite of passage, but she went basically against her will, and trying to keep 3 children and a husband happy, fed, and hydrated was exhausting for her. I laughed out loud throughout the entire chapter. I also loved the chapter where she took her teenage savings and flew to Los Angeles to try and become Leonardo DiCaprio's girlfriend before he got super famous.

On Oprah, this woman said she was so upset because her husband called her a bitch a year into their relationship. I was like, it took a whole year??"

Some of the chapters about her childhood were a bit dull but it is what it is. I don't love reading about kids, I don't love reading from the perspective of kids, so naturally I don't love the chapters from her childhood.

Oxford with her kids (Henry, Bea and Salinger from left to right)

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys these types of funny memoirs like I do. While I really enjoyed it, I am confident I'll like her most recent book, titled When You Find Out the World is Against You, even more. I think there will be more content related to her modern life, living in California, and her family (the stuff I love) and less of her childhood and early career (the stuff I don't love). It just came out last year and it's definitely going on my birthday list. 

Oxford is also inspiring in that she's from a small town in Canada and has made it big on wit alone. Meghan and I pray for a similar success story everyday, but don't necessarily have the talent or the drive.







Our fifth book club! Manhattan Beach was the book I nominated for our March Book Club so don't kill me if you aren't into it. 

I'll explain why I chose this book: I work in recruitment for the university here in New Brunswick and we do A LOT of travelling - long hours driving and hanging out in hote rooms. In late November I was away for a week with a bunch of other recruiters from the Atlantic provinces. I got talking about books with a woman named Trudy and she told me she just finished the audiobook of Manhattan Beach and really liked it. All she really told me about the plot was that the main female character is one of the first women to dive for the Second World War effort. I was sold at diving. I have always been attracted to books where I will learn a lot about one activity. And I'm literally just one bad breakup away from picking up diving as a hobby, so... 

When I went to London, Ontario, to visit Meg after the holidays I also travelled with my boyfriend Ben (London is coincidentally his hometown), and when I visited his parents I was happy to see that his mom Laurie was also reading this book. I know his mom is a big reader so I felt like this was good confirmation that Manhattan Beach would be an interesting read.

ANWAYS, I will say I've enjoyed the first 50 pages.

I already feel like it has a bit of a  vibe, but probably just because it seems like it is going to be a family drama, and the narration is switching between more than one character. 

I was mildly horrified that the opening quotation is from Moby Dick (our god-awful first book club), but that I have been really digging the constant acknowledgment of the ocean:

"Anna watched the sea. There was a feeling she had, standing at its edge: an electric mix of attraction and dread. What would be exposed if all that water should suddenly vanish? A landscape of lost objects: sunken ships, hidden treasure, gold and gem and the charm bracelet that had fallen from her wrist into a storm drain. Dead bodies, her father always added with a laugh. To him, the ocean was a wasteland." 

I can't help but wonder if this is a bit of a foreshadow into the role the ocean will play in this book... I mean we already know gangsters must be involved somehow, as they reference loan sharks near the end of our first reading section ... but I guess we'll just have to read on.









The only good thing about not drinking anymore is that you remember every book your drunk friends recommend you. So let's start this review off with a shoutout to Andre, who gushed about how great Loung Ung's memoir was at my birthday party! Thanks Andre!!

This book is written VERY directly. Ung tells her story from start to finish and doesn't rely on any narrative flares. What I really liked about this book was that you have a clear understanding of what happened in Cambodia and how the country lost 1/4th of their population under the Khmer Rouge.

First They Kill My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers is a quick read. Ung starts by introducing her large family (her mother, father, and five siblings ranging from toddlers to teenagers) and describing their upper-middle-class life in Cambodia's capital city. Soon Khmer Rouge soldiers enter the city and tell everyone they have to leave, that the city is going to be bombed by the Americans. It only takes a few days for Ung to realize that her family will never get to go back home.

From here everything gets worse and worse as you read along. Her family is forced to hide their identity and they get placed in a work camp. They work long hours in the brutal heat and end each day with scarcely any food. The Khmer Rouge claim to be communists but it is clear this is not the case. Ung does a great job of explaining this very simply and she details the hierarchy of Cambodians the Khmer Rouge have put in place.

Loung Ung
When night comes, the gods again taunt us with a radiant sunset. 'Nothing should be this beautiful,' I quietly say to Chou. 'The gods are playing tricks on us. How could they be so cruel and still make the sky so lovely?' My words tug at my heart. It is unfair of the gods to show us beauty when I am in so much pain and anguish. 'I want to destroy all the beautiful things.'

I had mixed feelings about this approach. On the one hand I thought it was incredibly useful because you get a very basic understanding of the politics and nature of this genocide. The only negative was just that I would have loved to have heard this story from the perspective of one of her older siblings - like someone in their early twenties. However her age makes the story all the more horrifying / depressing because you are forced to read about a six year old enduring starvation, abuse, and the death of those closest to her.

An example of why I did enjoy Ung writing from her younger self's perspective was that you get this really clear picture of how things changed so quickly for everyone. One of my favourite examples of this was early on when they are being forced out of the city. Once the Khmer soldiers take Ung's family's truck they are forced to carry their small amount of belongings with them on foot. The large group sleeps outside after long, long days of walking in stifling heat. Ung tells her mother she needs to use the washroom but there is no toilet paper. Her mother passes her some dollar bills and tells her to use them as toilet paper, that money is no good anymore, which shocks six-year-old Ung.

a scene from First They Killed my Father on Netflix

At five years old, I am beginning to know what loneliness feels like, silent and alone and suspecting that everyone wants to hurt me."

One of the other themes within this book that really killed me was the elasticity of children. That how after losing you sisters, her mother and her father, Ung was still able to survive and make a happy life for herself. It reminded me a lot of the movie Room with Brie Larson ... where Larson's son is able to adapt to life outside of captivity and be happy, whereas his mother can't seem to get past what happened to her. I would be very curious to hear from Ung's older siblings that survived, and how they dealt with / recovered from these events. I couldn't help but wonder that while Ung has a very strong memory for everything that happened to her, if her age didn't help protect her from succumbing to these horrors later in life.

Angeline Jolie working with Sreymoch Sareum who plays Loung Ung in the film adaptation

The other thing I found super fascinating was how Ung's experience compared to her slightly older sister Chou. Ung constantly brings up how different the two were. Ung was a very tough child and she harboured a lot of anger and resentment to those who treated her so horribly. Her sister Chou was not like this at all ... Ung constantly questioned how she could be so meek and mild and survive the cruelty of the Khmer Rogue. But what's interesting is that they both survive! I would love to read an expert's opinion about how these VERY different personality styles survive in these circumstances.

The other thing that killed me was how horribly those being persecuted treated each other. I remember feeling so sad for Ung once she has to abandon her mother and move to a children's work camp. But I remember also thinking maybe she will find some kindness or camaraderie with those her own age. This never happens ... despite everyone enduring a similar experience, no one treats anyone with much kindness.

I live with forty others, but I am so alone in this world. There is no camaraderie among the children, no blossoming friendships, no bonding together under hardship. We live against each other, spying on one another for Pol Pot, hoping to win favors from Met Bong."

As soon as I finished the book I watched Angelina Jolie's Netflix adaptation of Ung's book. The two wrote the screenplay together, but Jolie (whose first adopted son is from Cambodia) directed. I found the movie to be about as good as the book. It wasn't about narrative style or filmmaking, it was just about telling this story through Ung's eyes, which isn't something I can complain about.


The movie looks very beautiful, with a lot of great aerial shots. And I will admit that while I didn't cry reading the book I did cry twice watching the movie. I think this is only because when watching the movie you are forced to actually stare at a adorable six-year-old girl going through the worst experience ever, so it is impossible not to cry for her. You also see actual scenes of family members having to do unthinkable things, and you see their actual reactions (not just a description).

My only complaint about the movie is that they pretty much blow past the final stages of Ung's experience. For instance they don't show you how horrible it was for Ung and her siblings after the Khmer Rogue fell. Or how Ung was almost raped by a "good" solider. But I understand that the movie was already almost 2.5 hours and they couldn't include everything.

I would suggest this book to anyone based on their interest in learning about Cambodia's history. My friend Andre spent time travelling in Cambodia with his girlfriend Marnie and I can see how having read this book would have really added to the experience.










If you read my review of , you'll know all about my ongoing love-hate relationship with Margaret Atwood. Nevertheless, I can't resist a good piece of fiction and when I saw this on the $10 table at Indigo a few months ago I put my tail between my legs and went ahead with it. While this isn't a terrible book, it's certainly not her best work by a long shot. This would likely be bottom of the list of Atwood recommendations from me. I found it to be a bit childish, I hated both the narrators, and I think the feminist agenda was a lost (in my opinion).

The plot begins after some sort of large collapse in the economy. Narrators Stan and Charmaine (the novel switches between them) are a married couple who have lost their jobs, lost their house, and are living in their car while Charmaine fights for shifts as a waitress and Stan fights off thugs who want to rob them. They hear about a new community that's recruiting residents called Consilience for a new 'project' they're trying. Basically the town is completely contained, when you move in they give you a house and a job in the town and in return you alternate months in a prison called Positron, and another couple will live in your house and do your jobs. They have a recruitment weekend where they put you up in a nice hotel and woo you (it had a lot of Downsizing or The Lobster vibes) and then you can sign up if you'd like but your commitment is for life, there is no changing your mind.

The catch here is everyone 'trying out' Consilience for the weekend has basically been living in poverty, so they sign up without even considering the repercussions. Charmaine, being the brat she is, begs Stan to sign the papers upon seeing a clean bath towel. They move in and begin their new lives, Stan manages the chicken farm and Charmaine is a "medical administrator". You soon learn that medical administrators essentially put disobeying humans who weren't a 'good fit' for Consilience to sleep.

Margaret Atwood, no new hairdos.


Eventually, Charmaine has an affair with her male alternate (the man who lives in her house when she's at a prison) and Stan is caught monitoring her scooter after being suspicious. The HR woman who catches him blackmails him and stages a coup to smuggle Stan out of Consilience so he can leak information to the media. To do this, they have to fake his death, meaning Charmaine has to 'put him to sleep'. It's the most fucked up scenario because they don't tell Charmaine it's fake- they want her grief to seem realistic to the other executives at Consilience. There's this awkward section where Stan is positive Charmaine could never kill him, but, being the selfish bitch she is, she does. This obviously takes a large toll on their relationship when Stan is on the outside and reveals to Charmaine that he's still alive.

One of the biggest themes throughout this book is sex. Everyone is obsessed with sex, how to improve their sex lives, how sex will make their lives better, etc. When sex is taken off the table, the men in the book will do anything to get some action. This passage below describes one of the prison inmates threatening Stan if he doesn't let him fuck a chicken:

'You want to what?' he asked the first time. The guy had spelled it out: he wanted to have sex with a chicken. It didn't hurt the chicken, he'd done it before, it was normal, lots of guys did it, and chickens didn't talk. A guy got very horny in here with no outlets, right? And it was no fair that Stan was keeping the chickens all to himself, and if he didn't unlock that wire cage right now, his life might not be so pleasant, supposing he was allowed to keep it, because he might end up as a chicken substitute like the fag he probably was. Stan got the message. He allowed the chicken assignations. What did that make him? A chicken pimp. Better that than dead."

Eventually it becomes clear that Consilience has been developing new prototypes for sex robots, based on real people. The owner of Consilience, obsessed with Charmaine, makes a sex robot of her but is disappointed that it isn't lifelike. He instead creates a surgical procedure to make someone obsessed with you. As the plot comes to fruition, it's clear the owner plans to give Charmaine this surgical procedure- which is compared to a duckling imprinting on it's mother. Charmaine would forget all about Stan and only want to have sex with him. ***Spoiler Alert*** Stan comes to the rescue (despite his wife actually 'killing him') and drugs the Consilience owner so Charmaine can imprint on himself instead.

There's an interesting section after the surgery where Stan reflects on his new sex life with Charmaine after the procedure. He mentions how it's the best he's ever had now, but even that can become routine. It speaks a lot to human nature I think, we'll never, ever feel truly satisfied. Even our wildest dreams will eventually bore us.

On the other hand, his sex life has never been so good. Partly it's whatever adjustment they made inside Charmaine's brain, but also it has to be his repertoire of verbal turn-ons... all he needs to do is haul out one of those riffs- Turn over, kneel down, tell me how shameless you are- and Charmaine is toffee in his hands... True, the routine has become slightly predictable, but it would be surly to complain. Like complaining that the food's too delicious. What kind of a complaint is that?"

In the end, once Stan switches places with Ed (the owner) so Charmaine imprints on him instead. They go on to live life happily ever after until a year later when HR at Consilience comes to Charmaine to reveal a 'secret':

'You can choose,' says Jocelyn. 'To hear it or not. If you hear it, you'll be more free but less secure. If you don't hear it, you'll be more secure, but less free.' She crosses her arms, waits. ...
'Ok, tell me,' [Charmaine] says.
'Simply this,' says Jocelyn. 'You never had that operation. That brain adjustment.'
'That can't be true,' says Charmaine flatly. 'It can't be true! There's been such a difference!'
'The human mind is infinitely suggestible,' says Jocelyn.
'But. But now I love Stan so much,' says Charmaine. 'I have to love him, because of that thing they did! It's like an ant, or something. It's like a baby duck! That's what they said!'

Atwood definitely had a feminist agenda in writing this. There are a lot of discussions between the male characters of replacing all the women with robots, or even the surgery to 'imprint them' on men and take away their free will. However, I felt there was so much going on with the plot that it was hard to even get to that mentally. In The Handmaid's Tale, female oppression smacks you in the face and stays there, whereas with this novel it kind of gets lost. Of course, this could just be saying something about me as a human- that I don't recognize obvious misogyny where it exists- but I think it did get buried in the ever-changing plot line.

As I mentioned earlier, Charmaine and Stan were both unbearable and terrible people and I hated them as narrators. Charmaine actually KILLS her husband (or so she thinks) just because she's told and immediately is hoping they may put her in one of those singles condos in Consilience. Stan, on the other hand, is just a sex-crazed chump. I felt like they were both babies and as a result the whole book came across as a bit 'young adult' as a genre. (Imagine it was a YA novel and I totally missed that.) If you want to read some dystopian fiction I know Meghan and I would both be happy to recommend some better alternatives than this.









   
I feel like there are a lot of strong opposing opinions about Jonathan Safran Foer. I fall sort of in the middle. I love, love, love his books, but he drives me INSANE as a human being. Foer is a very talented writer and became pretty famous pretty quickly, but there is such an air of pretentiousness that surrounds him, and it's hard to ignore.

Foer is extremely well educated and from a pretty well-off family. He went straight to Princeton after graduating high school and worked very closely with JOYCE CAROL OATES. Imagine being in your early twenties and having fucking Joyce Carol Oates telling you you're a very talented writer and should consider it as a career??? My head would explode.

ANYWAYS, the most damning evidence that makes me cringe is his relationship with Natalie Portman ... it makes me ALMOST dislike Portman. The two of them had been emailing each other for years, and for some unknown reason decided to let . This is easily the most douchey, "auteur"-correspondence where they spend most of their emails patting each other on the back ... it is painful to read.

But a lot of people don't like the authors they love to read, and I am no different. So let's start this author spotlight like we do with most: reviewing each book in chronological order. (I should note that I am excluding Tree of Codes because it isn't really a book).


1. Everything Is Illuminated (2002)

Foer was only 25 when this book was published which I think is a huge accomplishment. I read this book a LONG time ago, but the main things I remember are the heartbreaking fictionalized scenes of the destruction of a Jewish community in Poland before the Holocaust. This is always Foer's strong suit. In university he wrote his thesis about his maternal grandmother - a Holocaust survivor. He is very in touch with his Jewish heritage and writes really beautifully about it.

She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum."

I should also say this book is very weird, and it's a good example of what's to come in Foer's career. His narrative structures are usually complicated, with multiple narratives and storylines, as well as strange literary devices. Often times he'll rely on manipulations of the actual text itself ... jumbling sentences together until it is essentially unreadable.

Again, I read this book a long time ago (and also watched the movie adaptation with Elijah Wood) and can't really remember too much about it. I just remember thinking it wasn't really for me, and that I probably would never read it again. BUT I really do think that I read this book too young and that if I was to go back through it I would actually really enjoy it.

One day you will do things for me that you hate. That is what it means to be family."

You can read Meg's full review of the book.


2. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005)

On the other hand, I feel like I read this book at the perfect age. I was still in high school when I picked it up and I remember being really moved by it. I always said the takeaway message is simple: tell people how you feel about them because you never know when you'll lose that opportunity.

It's been so many years since I've read this and I worry that if I were to revisit it I would find the whole 9/11 plotline to be disgusting.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has two storylines: one from the perspective of a young New York boy whose father dies in 9/11, and the second from an older man living in New York who thinks back to his life in Dresden and the death of the love of his life. The link between these two characters is that the old man marries the young boy's grandmother.

Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on. I hope you never think about anything as much as I think about you."

The stuff about Dresden and the unhappy marriage back in New York were beautifully written, and painful to read. Again, this storyline fits with Foer's background in the history of the Holocaust, and he uses his knowledge to paint a strong portrait of the Second World War.

What did thinking ever do for me, to what great place did thinking ever bring me? I think and think and think. I've thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it."

There are even more weird literary devices used in this book than in his first one.


3. Eating Animals (2009)

This is my second favourite Foer book, but is definitely one of the top ten books I think about the most. I remember I read this in like three days, and then spent the next two weeks telling anyone who would listen to me about it. I talked to Meg and Chelsea in an ice cream shop about it, I told Chelsea about it while on the elliptical machine, and I Skyped my parents for an hour and a half about it. And yet, I am still a meat-eating asshole.

We are the ones of whom it will be fairly asked, 'What did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?'

I love the beginning of this book. Foer starts off describing how important food is to us as individual people but also as a family unit. He talks about how his grandmother was obsessed and meticulous about food because of how she lived without it while hiding during the Second World War. She would pick up her grandchildren and tell them they were too thin, that they needed to eat more. She would also make use of every single scrap of food on her plate or in her pantry.

From there he tackles a bunch of different subject matter in relation to conscious eating: terminology, factory farming, harvesting mammals vs. fish vs. shellfish, whether to be vegetarian or vegan, dairy products, environmental impact, etc. I really, really liked how the book was organized and how the information was presented.

Nothing - not a conversation, not a handshake or even a hug - establishes friendship so forcefully as eating together. Maybe it's cultural. Maybe it's an echo from the communal feasts of our ancestors."

The heart of this book is Foer discussing his on-again-off-again relationship with veganism, and his determination to commit to being vegan. It is also about his, and his then-wife (and fellow author) Nicole Krauss', decision to raise their son vegan.

You can read Meg's (an actual vegetarian) .


4. Here I Am (2016)

This was , and easily my favourite Foer book. As I said in my full review (), this is Foer's most mature book - both in style and in subject matter.

Here I Am is a family drama that centres on the end of the two main characters' marriage. This is particularly heart-wrenching because Foer and Krauss divorced in 2014, and it always makes me sad to see two writers separate.

Because I reviewed this book so recently I'll leave it at this, my favourite passage:

'In sickness and in sickness,' Jacob's mother had said at his wedding. 'That is what I wish for you. Don't seek or expect miracles. There are no miracles. Not anymore. And there are no cures for the hurt that hurts most. There is only the medicine of believing each other's pain, and being present for it."


If you're an adventurous reader I would recommend any of Foer's books, but if you are more in to traditional writing, then I would suggest you lean towards Eating Animals or Here I Am. What's better than getting an author's work of non-fiction AND fiction? And if you are a lover of all Jonathan's and also enjoy picking up a Franzen novel, then check out our friend and collaborator Laura Frey's blog Reading in Bed, where she wrote !









One of the sections that struck me the most in these chapters was Anna's first sexual encounter. Egan describes how she would hide in a cellar with a neighbourhood boy and they would start to fool around. These sort of scenes seem to be common in works of fiction and they always make me feel sort of depressed.. The lack of communication around sex is upsetting. I mean she brought a RULER with her so she would have something to bite down on, how fucked up is that?

I did love the section where they are informed of all the possible side effects of deep sea diving, like the squeeze and the bends. This is the sort of information that simultaneously repulses me and fascinates me. Like I hate to read about blood coming out of eyes and ears, but also can't stop researching it. I also think Meg and I just love an opportunity to "worry" about something ... for example Meg took some pottery classes and started spending time in their workspace making plates, bowls, etc. and I got a phone call literally the second time she had ever stepped foot in the studio telling me she believes she has "potters' lung." So I will say I have been enjoying the book for the factual information about deep-sea diving and welding.

Then there is the constant sexism and condescension that goes on on the wharf ... I think Egan tackles this in a really great way, where it is really frustrating but also somewhat humourous. Here was the passage I thought represented both sentiments:

He took a long, patient breath. 'It is enormously taxing for the human body to perform underwater,' he said. 'I understand that may be hard to believe; you see the pretty waves, the nice sea foam. You like to swim. But it isn't like that underneath. Water is heavy. The pressure of that weight is something ferocious. We've no idea how the female body would react.'

What I found so funny about this paragraph is that he patronizes her so hard saying "yes I know you think the sea is pretty but..", and yet we already know this is far from the case. Anna has so much respect for the sea, but she also has a deep fear of it (which I quoted in Week 1) and we know she would never underestimate the danger of the ocean.

I also thought it was hilarious that the instructor says he doesn't know how the FEMALE body would react ... as if a female body's anatomy and inner mechanisms are completely different from a man's. I would imagine the bends are the bends, man or woman.









I know that Lydia dies in this section, but honestly the saddest part for me was Dexter describing his relationship with his dad. I love father-son relationships so much, and estranged ones crush me. It's why I love the movie The Judge so much.

He's an old man, Dexter thought, recalling his boss's labored breathing on the stoop this afternoon. He won't live forever. And felt again the sting of his father's slap, the wet ache in his eyes."

I also found the parts about Anna staying back in the city to be very interesting. It never even occurred to me how frowned upon it would be for an unmarried woman to live alone... but then, it's totally fine for her to drive around and go to the beach with a married man? So I am really just learning what's appropriate and what's not.

It's weird, besides the jokes about marrying a returning officer, Anna never expresses a romantic interest in anyone (so far). She seems solely interested in furthering her career, and never seems upset or lonely that she doesn't have male companionship. I like how this subtle feminism is coming into play, because they don't make a big deal about her independence either. It's not like she is running around screaming how she doesn't want to get married like in an Austen novel. It's honestly kind of refreshing.










I'm throwing it back here to an oldie but a goodie because book club has interrupted my current reading schedule and I honestly don't have anything new in my wheelhouse. It's a good opportunity to talk about one of my favourite books. Even though I haven't read this in a while, I've read it so many times I feel like I could recite the chapters from memory.

I can't tell you when I first read this, I want to say I was ten. I stole it off my mom's bookshelf. I still have her old, torn up copy which she insists to this day I need to give back but, sorry mom, it's mine forever. I feel, in some weird way, that the way the two main characters grow up through the novel, I sort of grew up reading this book. I read it at least once per year from ten to twenty and it's been a while, but I feel like maybe I don't need it the way I used to? Every time I read it I felt connected to some new relationship in the story and I think I've finally outgrown the characters. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to any female of any age. It's an amazing story.

She wondered if all the firsts in her life would go by so quickly, and be forgotten just as quickly.” 

The book really centers around two main characters, Caitlin and Victoria, who are best friends and vacation with Caitlin's dad and his new family on Martha's Vineyard each summer. Victoria, who comes from a less than wealthy family, is throughout the book entranced by Caitlin's lifestyle. She feels privileged just to be able to take these vacations with Caitlin, and it's this feeling of privilege that directs the peaks and valleys of their friendship.

The story is told from many different perspectives, including both Caitlin and Victoria but also their siblings, their step-siblings, their parents, their step-parents, their boyfriends, etc. There are so many types of relationships within the book which is why you can read it over so many times. There really is something for everyone.

Judy Blume


I would call it a coming of age story for Caitlin and Victoria. They explore their bodies together, go through family drama, experience sex and love, fight, make-up, get pregnant, get new jobs, go to private schools, etc. There are major themes of class throughout- Victoria's family feels a bit of hostility towards Caitlin's for showing their daughter a life they could never give her. When I was younger I thought the book was about friendship, but now that I'm older I think it's more centered around parenting (which I love to read about). Each parent and step-parent in the story is unique, each equally good and bad in their own ways, and it makes you think a lot about the style of parent you were raised with and feel very fortunate regardless of your circumstances. Lamb (Caitlin's dad) is naturally my favourite, being the sweet, eager to please dad of daughters that I grew up with.

You weren’t always born to the right parents. And parents didn’t necessarily get the kids they were meant to raise.” 

Victoria is my favourite character. She's easily one of my favourite characters from any book. I also included her and one of her boyfriends Bru in my we wrote up for Valentine's day. Victoria was always nervous how to act around people and felt like she didn't deserve the things that came her way. This makes her a very careful, modest, and critical thinking character (exactly the kind I love to read). Caitlin was more of a Bridget from The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants type of character... flirty and using her charm to get her way always... this is not a character I've ever been particularly into but I do love the way her and Victoria interact.

I couldn't even begin to pick a favourite part of the book, but this is one of my favourite lines and something I think about a lot:

A person can have a happy and fulfilling life without children.” 

Meghan and I share a love of stories that are told over a long period of time. I think it makes them mean more, but it also makes them sad. I think a lot about how I can be so close to certain people for a particular period of my life and then see them so infrequently, if at all, after that period (working at a summer camp, playing on a team, taking a vacation together, etc.). It's one of the most sad things in the world to me. It's why I loved this book, but also why I find it very sad. In a weird way the book also makes me think about Meghan. We see each other less and less as we settle into our 'adult lives' but it couldn't seem to matter less. I could see her five years from now and I'd still grab a bag of Oreos and settle onto her sister's couch to binge watch something terrible then fly home.

We are friends for life. When we're together the years fall away. isn't that what matters? To have someone who can remember with you? To have someone who remembers how far you've come?"

I think this is such an important read. Blume has a massive repertoire, mostly for young adults but some for adults too. This, however, is definitely the highlight of her work. It explores female friendships, and how the complexities of female lives and how their relationships with others can affect those friendships. I used to wish they'd adapt it into a movie, but now I don't. I think it would ruin it. For a loosely similar idea, I can watch Very Good Girls, which has my ideal casting for a film adaptation of Summer Sisters anyways.










This book has a lot of pieces that I look for when choosing what to read next. As you know, we are big fans of true crime on this blog, but I think more than that I'm interested in anything an author pursues obsessively. And this fascination is reflected in Michelle McNamara's book I'll Be Gone In the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. McNamara penned the name Golden State Killer for the ruthless, serial murderer who tormented Sacramento in the 1970s, but her digging came to an abrupt stop when she unexpectedly died in her sleep two years ago.


Some other things I got excited about were the introduction by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn () who writes violent fiction, and the afterward by actor/comedian Patton Oswalt (McNamara's husband). The afterword was particularly eye catching in the wake of her death.

I want to address the death of the author before starting the actual review:

McNamara acknowledges who her husband is about ~30 pages into the book. You hear about her attending premiere parties and going to screenings of his work. What's upsetting about these stories is how she is (obviously) unaware of her own imminent death, but that in contrast, this is something we are hyper-aware of, and it makes everything that much more sad.

For example, McNamara talks about her daughter Matilda (~7 years old at the time of her mother's death) and how she is a troubled sleeper. Matilda would often tell her mother before going to sleep "I don't want to have a dream." This would seem normal, maybe even cute, if we didn't know what happens to Michelle, but we do know... and this makes it heartbreaking:

'You are not going to have a dream,' I tell her, with crisp, confident enunciation. Her body releases its tension, and she goes to sleep. I leave the room, hoping that what I promised but have no control over will be true. That's what we do. All of us. We make well-intentioned promises of protection we can't always keep. I'll look out for you."

This passage is obviously sad because this little girl's mom is no longer around to reassure her of these things. But it also really makes you want to scream at everyone who criticizes Oswalt for remarrying so soon after McNamara's death. I felt sad when I read this, but then remembered Matilda has a mother figure back in her life, and that's a relief.

The last thing I'll say before we get into the actual details of the book is that I really enjoyed Oswalt's afterword. He excused himself from gushing too much by saying "it's impossible to speak of her without hyperbole," which is fitting considering what happened. Anyways, it's a sad, present-day story that kind of hangs over the 352-paged horrific, true crime one.

Patton Oswalt and Michelle McNamara at a movie premiere

Aaaaaaand now for the book:

As far as true crime goes, this was a good read. I like that you actually get a little bit of back story on the author and why they've become so obsessed with this one case/killer:

Violent men unknown to me have occupied my mind all my adult life - long before 2007, when I first learned of the offender I would eventually dub the Golden State Killer. The part of the brain reserved for sports statistics or dessert recipes or Shakespeare quotes is, for me, a gallery of harrowing aftermaths; a boy's BMX bike, its wheels still spinning, abandoned in a ditch along a country road; a tuft of microscopic green fibers collected from the small of a dead girl's back."

You find out that there was a violent homicide in McNamara's childhood neighbourhood in Chicago. A young girl was brutally murdered and left in an alley not far from where McNamara and her friends would play. The crime was never solved and it stayed in McNamara's mind ever since.

The thing is, once you learn about how horrific the rapes and murders, and more importantly, how many there were, the Golden State Killer is difficult to get out of your own head. It's been almost three weeks since I finished this book and still every time I get up to go to the bathroom at night or turn a dark corner I can't help but think of this masked man waiting for me.

And then there is the real cause behind most obsessions: the unknown. The Golden State Killer is still a free man. No one knows who he is. He committed close to 50 rapes, and murdered 12. He's made phone calls to his victims decades later, saying things like "remember when we played?" I mean the book was named after a creepy threat he uttered to one of his tied up victims: 

He pointed a knife at her and issued a chilling warning: 'Make one move and you'll be silent forever and I'll be gone in the dark.'

He's a fucking psychopath and he's still out there. Nothing chills us / excites us quite like an unsolved crime.

Drawings of what the Golden State Killer potentially looks like
Again, I feel like I am more interested in the obsessiveness that surrounds the killer than I am in the actual crimes/deaths. The entire time I read this book I couldn't help but think about David Fincher's Zodiac, one of the best serial killer dramas out there. The Washington Post did a 20-year-anniversary write up about the movie and said this: 

Zodiac is a movie about how uncertainty and institutional failure will drive you mad, and as a result, it's more relevant than ever." 

The same rings true for the Golden State Killer.

You learn a lot of technical language in this book, and this is something that always sparks attention from me or Meg. We love feeling like experts on stuff, so when I get to learn what "overkill" means to a cop, I'm definitely interested:

'Overkill' is a popular but sometimes misused term in criminal investigations and crime stories. Even seasoned homicide investigators occasionally misinterpret an offender's behaviour when he uses a great deal of force. It's common to assume that a murder involving overkill means there was a relationship between offender and victim, an unleashing of pent-up rage borne of familiarity. 'This was personal,' goes the cliche."


It's also just the incredible amout of detail McNamara has collected through police reports, interviews, and revisiting crime scenes 40 years later. You find out how he often stalked his victims for weeks, plotting out when they would be home and what was the best point of entry. One of the things that will definitely stick in my mind for years was how he would leave his victims tied up, and when they believed he was gone they would finally go limp and start trying to untie themselves... then suddenly out of no where they would feel a knife pressed against their backs or heavy breathing by their ear, letting them know he hasn't left yet.


I mean obviously this is terrifying on its own. But what makes it stick in my mind is McNamara letting you know that this was a very specific tactic. That he would do this so that the victims would wait even longer before trying to free themselves, giving him more time to escape.

Then there is all the detail about how terrified Sacramento was. How so many people were raped or killed inside their own homes. That even the presence of their significant other wouldn't stop him. That no lock could keep him out. McNamara talks a lot about neighbour relations, and while she doesn't mention it by name, you can't help but think more and more about the bystander effect - that even if you see something and know it's not right, you often assume someone else will deal with it:

It was a power play, a signal of ubiquity. I am both nowhere and everywhere. You may not think you have something in common with your neighbour, but you do: me. I'm the barely spotted presence, the dark-haired, blond-haired, stocky, slight, seen from the back, glimpsed in half-light thread that will continue to connect you even as you fail to look out for each other."



Then of course there is the shit I'm REALLY interested in. Like obsessions that lead to ruined marriages, careers, and friendships. She spends a lot of time with an investigator who was on the case, and who still knows every single detail imaginable. These passages are near the end of the book and were some of my favourite. Their shared obsession with the Golden State Killer is interesting to hear about, and McNamara is constantly shooting him ideas about the case.

The Golden State Killer haunts their dreams. He's ruined their marriages. He's burrowed so deeply inside their heads that they want to, or have to, believe that if they locked eyes with him, they'd know. 'It's kind of like a bloodhound thing,' a detective said to me. 'I believe if I were at a mall and he passed by me, I'd know."

I was going away for a week for work and would be sleeping alone in a hotel room in Nova Scotia. I remember racing through this book so I wouldn't have to read it alone in bed, a recipe for a nightmare. But still, I can't stop thinking about it.

The only solace I get is from my friend Eric who once told me that there's no point worrying about serial killers. "If a serial killer wants you, he's going to get you. There's nothing you can do about that," he said. So in a way, this comforts me ... it feels out of my hands. Hopefully this will give you some peace of mine too after reading I'll Be Gone in the Dark.








I heard about Mary Karr because of her connection to David Foster Wallace.. something I'm sure would make her eyes roll back into her head. I was reading Chuck Klosterman's But What If We're Wrong: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past () and he briefly mentioned DFW's obsession with Karr. It was in that book that Klosterman also mentioned her memoir The Liar's Club and I decided to add it to my list of books to buy.

I remember having to order it with a couple of other books last Christmas. When the order finally came in Karr's memoir was packaged with a DFW book I ordered. I joked with my friend Michael (who was working at the time) that this was exactly what DFW would have wanted. Now I feel a little guilty about the joke after learning how pissed off it makes Karr to constantly be associated with DFW.


Sometimes people go on and on about David Foster Wallace. As though my contribution to literature is that I fucked him a couple times in the early nineties."

ANYWAYS, let's get to the actual book.

The Liar's Club is a 352-paged account of Karr's, and her older sister Leica's (pronounced Lisa), horrible childhood in southeast Texas. The book is named after her father's "club" - a group of men who would meet up at random bars, get wasted, and listen to Karr's father tell stories. Karr would tag along on these meet ups.

The book starts in a depressed industrial town in Texas when Karr is ~five years old. We learn about their less-than-parental father and their alcoholic mother. From there we follow them to the mountains in Colorado then back to southeast Texas. The book predominately focuses on Karr's early childhood, but we get a little bit from her post-high school period near the end.

Mary Karr
I should let you know up front that it's going to be hard for me to not constantly compare this to Jeanette Walls' The Glass Castle (). I read the two books so close together that it is impossible not to be comparing which works better as a memoir of  a rotten childhood.

I'll say right now that I think Karr's memoir is a lot better. The story is similar in that the parents are super neglectful, but Karr is the better writer. I know this will sound super douchey, but Karr just seems to write in a more "literary" fashion. What I mean is that I found it really hard to find any passages from Walls' memoir that would hold up for me overtime... but Karr had some great lines that I'll definitely look back on.

[...] some windowshade in the experience flew up to show me what suffering really is. It's not the old man with arthritic fingers you glimpse trying to open one of those little black, click-open purses for soda change at the Coke machine. It isn't even the toddler you once passed in a yard behind a chain-linked fence, tethered to a clothesline like a dog in midday heat. Those are only rumours of suffering. Real suffering has a face and a smell. It lasts in its most intense form no matter what you drape over it. And it knows your name."

It is also pretty interesting to me to see how much of a draw there is for books about people's shitty childhoods. I have been wondering why that seems to be the case, but I feel like the answer is pretty obvious. People want to have shared experiences, even when they are horrible ones. And I can understand why a lot of psychologists have suggested their patients who have dealt with something similar should read The Liar's Club.

I have the tenth anniversary edition of The Liar's Club and in it Karr writes a brief foreward. She talks about how many people have approached her since writing the book to tell her about their horrible childhoods. This was a really interesting little section because I had recently read an article about what happens after you write a memoir (), and you can see that Karr's experience has been very similar to the article's author's own experience.



Silence can make somebody bigger, I've come to believe. Grief can, too. A big sad silence emanating from someone can cause you to invest that person with all manner of gravitas."

This book is depressing. You have to read about injuries that could have easily been avoided had the parents just taken care of their children, about verbal abuse, and graphic scenes of sexual assault. There is a scene where Karr, at only eight years old, is forced to perform oral sex on an adult and it is VERY difficult to read. Karr is able to make you cry, feel nauseous, and furious all at once.

What I really enjoyed about this book was that Karr also makes you laugh. She constantly reminds readers that while it's easy to think of her as "tough," she was actually a massive cry baby. She also constantly interjects comments she thinks her older sister would demand be in the book, like how Mary was "so damned cute" that people let her get away with things. She would also mention when her sister had no recollection of certain events and couldn't confirm Mary's memories, or that her sister was convinced Mary was remembering something wrong. This keeps the memoir based in reality, and not completely subjective.

Her sister Leica is also very sharp witted. One of my favourite lines was from a scene on Karr's birthday where her mother was wasted and threw a giant casserole dish at their father. It shattered everywhere and he left immediately. Leica mutters under her breath: "Tape Ten, Reel One Thousand: Happy Goddamn Birthday."

I think about the story of Job I heard in Carol Sharp's Sunday school. How he sort of learned to lean into feeling hurt at the end, the way you might lean into a heavy wind that almost winds up supporting you after a while."


I loved the relationship between Karr and her sister Leica. I am the older sister in my family and even though we had a perfect childhood with amazing parents, there are a lot of scenes that are so universal to sisterhood. Karr is constantly trying to sleep next to her older sister or hold her hand, all of which Leica finds incredibly annoying. My sister used to sleep on the ground by my bed because I wouldn't let her in it. She always claims I would eventually cave, but I don't remember it that way.

My favourite scene is when their mother is drunk and waving a revolver at a new boyfriend... Lecia tells Karr to run to the neighbours house and essentially takes her place in a very dangerous situation. Karr talks about how at that very moment she imagined a bullet flying and taking the life of either her mother or sister, and who she would prefer to survive:

I would like to claim that I worried the bone of this choice a long time, but I did not. In an eyeblink's time, I killed the very sister who'd taken my place in the bullet's path. No sooner did the choice present itself than I chose."

I love this passage because it is so, so, so true. No matter how parents behave, their children are drawn to them, and Karr making this decision in her early childhood proves this.

So to wrap things up, I definitely found The Liar's Club to be a lot better than most childhood memoirs. Karr has such a great sense of humour but is also a very talented writer. I'm so glad I read the Lenny Letter interview because I found out that Karr is an amazing poet. So while I don't think I would read the other two memoirs Karr wrote, I would definitely be interested in picking up a book of her poetry.












Elizabeth Gilbert writes the kind of non-fiction that I dream of writing. Her books are always well-researched and full of interviews, but they also draw on her personal experience. She always strikes a perfect balance between being subjective and objective. Her profile of Eustance Conway in The Last American Man is no different, and I'd recommend this book to literally anyone.

I picked this book up a few years ago at a used bookstore and had been meaning to read it forever. It was exactly the sort of topic I love: a semi-troubled person decides to walk off into the woods and never return.

I've decided to break this review up into a few different topics in an attempt at writing something remotely organized... so here we go:

1. Gilbert's Research

I love the concept of this book and it's reflected perfectly in the title. The book is an expansion of Gilbert's profiling Eustance Conway - an outdoorsman who left home when he was 17 to live in the wild. The article is also titled "The Last American Man", and Gilbert starts the book off by defining this concept.

An "American Man" is someone who is an adventurer, an explorer, a frontiersman, and a hard worker... a man so at home in the wild that nothing, not even love, can come between his relationship with the natural world:


As the writer Leslie Fielder pointed out in his seminal tome Love and Death in the American Novel, we Americans have the only major culture in the known world that never held romantic love to be a scared precept. The rest of the world gets Don Juan; we get Paul Bunyan. There's no love story in Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn doesn't get the girl in the end; John Wayne never dreamed of giving up his horse for the constraints of a wife; and Davy fuckin' Crockett doesn't date."

But the real issue at the heart of this book is the loss of this cultural archetype... People are drawn to Conway because they believe him to be one of the last representations of this character. As the world evolves more and more, and technology gets more and more advanced, we don't feel the same connection with nature, and we certainly don't live the same way our ancestors did. Gilbert describes this loss best:

Nobody was really paying attention until the moment the wilderness was officially tamed, at which point everybody wanted it back. Within the general spasm of nostalgia that ensued there came a very specific cultural panic, rooted in the question 'What will become of our boys?'

So this book is about the nostalgia for the frontier and how we relentlessly romanticize the wild, which is perfect for me because I LOVE to romanticize the wild even though I hate camping.

In line with nostalgia for a more "natural" world, Gilbert spends a couple of pages talking about the idea of a utopia - a term most of us learned in high-school English class while reading Lord of the Flies.

She gives a brief history of the people who strived for a utopia, and how that desire is often realized through cults or communes. There was some interesting stuff in this section, but nothing was fleshed out in too much detail. She essentially discusses why these communes worked or didn't work, and the overall message is that even though these people are trying to get away from the modern world, or at least their dissatisfaction with it, they often fail.

After reading this section I definitely need to look up more information on a Tennessee commune Gilbert mentioned called The Farm. She lists a few books to read if you want more detail/history about commune life, which I appreciated.

Eustance Conway

2. Conway's Accomplishments 

It's impressive enough that Conway purchased a massive amount of land over his lifetime to build Turtle Island - a camp where he hopes to bring people looking to live a "natural" life and teach them survival skills - but he's also accomplished a hell of a lot more. Conway has set at least two world records, he's hiked the entire Appalachian trail with nothing but a gun, and he's traveled all over the world.

The most detailed accomplishment was when he crossed America on horseback in only ~100 days. Gilbert's interview with Conway maps out how many horses he brought, his thought process, and the physical / emotional toll it took on him and his two travel partners.

She also interviews "the world's foremost expert on equestrian travel" (amazing title) who describes how difficult the accomplishment was, and how lucky they were to even survive. What was interesting about this interview was that this "expert" was obviously pretty familiar with Conway, and he mentioned to Gilbert that he thinks we haven't even seen the surface of what Conway is capable of. It was weirdly foreboding and I need to know what he thinks Conway can manage... But he was also pretty critical of Conway in a way I found interesting:

I think he's reached a plateau in his life. He's pushed himself as far as he can go using his charisma and courage, and now he needs to go on a spiritual journey. He needs to do something that is private. He's postured himself in public for so many years that he doesn't know himself. There are parts of his soul he can't begin to understand, and until he learns these things about himself, he'll never be the nomad he's meant to be."

I liked the inclusion of this because it goes to show that Gilbert doesn't just sing Conway's praises the entire book. She is one of his harshest critics, and always paints a full picture of his character.

The other trip he did was on horse and buggy with his then-girlfriend. It wasn't as interesting as the Atlantic-Pacific trip, but it had some good information about the toll this trip took on his personal life. Conway is so obsessed with completing these "missions" and, though he wouldn't admit it, setting records, that he lets his relationships fall apart. Halfway through the trip he wasn't even speaking with his girlfriend ... they would spend hours driving across the prairies and wouldn't say a single word to each other.

This was one of my favourite ways Gilbert described one of Conway's quests:

The journey itself was heroic, in other words, but the situation was unfortunately reminiscent of Ursula K. LeGuin's sharp observation that 'the backside of heroism is often rather sad; women and servants know that.'

A few cottages on Turtle Island
3. Fatherhood: Big Eustance vs. Little Eustance

This was definitely the saddest portion of the book. Early on Gilbert describes Conway's childhood in North Carolina... she relies on interviews with Conway himself, his family, and his childhood diary entries. Conway's parents were pretty outdoorsy growing up (his mother lived in a tent in Alaska for at least a year in her early twenties), but Gilbert quickly makes it known that regardless of this mutual love of the outdoors, Conway had a horrible relationship with his father (Esutance Conway Senior, aka Big Eustance).

Conway was never physically abused as a child, but I would definitely say he endured a lot of mental abuse. His dad would call him stupid and openly encourage his other children to mock Conway... His dad was furious that Conway wasn't a math prodigy (like he was) and constantly let him know it. Conway wrote many times in his diary that he wanted to run away, to go to the woods and never come back.

I was shocked at how candid his father was in Gilbert's interviews. He was pretty honest about how he treated his son and his disappointment with him. Gilbert does a really good job of describing this complicated relationship. She also points out that Conway's siblings acknowledge that he was a difficult child and that it wasn't all their father's fault. My favourite part was when she pointed out Big Eustace's desire for his son to be just like him and how he named him after him:

Some interpret the custom as vanity, but I wonder whether it's vanity's opposite: insecurity. To me, it seems a touching and hopeful wish, as if the father - frightened by the importance of having created a new life, a new man, a new rival - utters a small prayer that in the naming of his baby there will be a kind of twinship between himself and the child." 

The saddest part is that Conway (Little Eustance) actually has A LOT in common with his father... He is very unforgiving of people and their inability to perform exactly as he wants them to. Hundreds of apprentices at Turtle Island have left him in a rage because of how they felt he treated them... and Conway has also never married (something he desperately wants) despite his dozen attempts at a relationship.

Elizabeth Gilbert
4. Personal Connection

And finally, my favourite aspect of this book: the personal side of Gilbert's relationship to the subject. I think what makes a great non-fiction writer is the author's connection to the subject matter. I mean my favourite non-fiction book is In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick... a man who literally lives in Nantucket and whose father is an English professor who raised his son on Moby Dick. So I think it's always a good idea to have some sort of relationship with the topic you are writing about.

Gilbert had an in with Conway because when she was in her early twenties she met his younger brother Judson. She stayed in contact with Judson and then eventually met Conway one day while the brothers were visiting New York. Gilbert and Conway have spent a lot of time together. They speak on the phone, writer letters, and even visit in person (Gilbert has visited Turtle Island many times). It's this familiarity with each other that I think allows Conway to be so open with Gilbert... giving her access to his letters and diary entries.

But what I love about her relationship with him is that she celebrates him AND criticizes him. She is constantly acknowledging how difficult it is not to romanticize Conway or project any of our ideals onto him (herself included):

I too had that moment of thinking this was the first truly authentic man I'd ever met, the kind of person I'd traveled to Wyoming as a twenty-two-year old to find (indeed, to become) - a genuine soul uncontaminated by modern rust. What makes Eustance seem, on first encounter, like the last of some noble species is that there is nothing 'virtual' about his reality. This is a guy who lives, quite literally, the life that, for the rest of the country, has largely become a metaphor." 

Where it gets tricky is our deciding what we want Eustance Conway to be, in order to fulfill our notions of him, and then ignoring what doesn't fit into our notions of him, and then ignoring what doesn't fit into our first-impression romantic image." 

It's similar to Joan Didion's essay about John Wayne ("Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream") - these men represent something that is so dear to us that we refuse to let it go, to see them as they really are. Yes, Conway is this extreme environmentalist who cares so passionately about nature and believes it is his personal destiny to save our technology-dependent souls... but he is also a girlfriend's worst nightmare and a cut-throat businessman. 

He's a complicated figure, and Gilbert profiles him to a tee.












One of the best revenge scenes is how flabbergasted Anna's sexist boss is when she completes the diving challenge:

'One is Kerrigan, sir,' Marle shouted over the wind.
Even in her exhaustion, Anna knew she would not forget the look of appalled bewilderment that blighted the lieutenant's childish face. Shaking his head, he peered at the diving benches.
'No,' he said. 'No, no.' And then, 'Which one?'

I should also say here that I LOVE Marle. I love how he is similar to Anna in that he hangs back from the group because he feels like an outsider (his reason being his race). He is so quiet that I want to know more about him and keep hoping a friendship will develop between him and Anna (or maybe something more).

And yeah, what a steamy sex scene ... shall we read a Harlequin Romance next??

And yet there was a problem with the girl in his car - this smart, modern girl with correct values, joined to the war effort, a girl matured by hard times and familial tragedy - and that problem was that all he could think of doing, in a concrete way, was fucking her."

And then after they have sex she section ends with her admitting who she really is. What a cliffhanger....







Both of us have always enjoyed buying our dads books and appealing to their interests whether it's music or history. As we mentioned in our , having parents that were avid readers really shaped our love of reading as well, and we wanted to share some books our dads love on the blog today since fathers' day is next week. 

Left: Meghan and her dad reading in a tent (obviously Meg was VERY young to be looking so relaxed in a tent)
Right: Meghan and her dad at an April Wine concert
Hopefully this list helps you with your own fathers' day shopping, or, gives you some ideas for some different books to try  - especially if you're into non-fiction.



It's amazing how Pierre Burton can cover a subject. He doesn't just tell what happened and how, but what it was like to be there and go through it. He does this by researching articles, interviews and letters sent home by the soldiers. The book is broken down into many individual personal stories that together form the whole. Vimy is a detailed historical account that reads like a novel. Even if you're not a history buff it's still a good read. I couldn't put it down.



I was never one to read as a child or for school purposes but as I got older I seemed to be really drawn towards autobiographies. I really enjoy them, you'll notice that all my picks are basically in this genre. I especially love musicians' autobiographies. I enjoy their perspective on why they chose their instruments and lifestyle, as well how they overcame negativity while trying to become who they are. My first pick is about Ronnie Wood the guitarist from The Rolling Stones. To me, he was the quiet character on stage that always seemed to be having so much fun, but you never heard much about him. This is my favourite book because Wood seemed to have written it as if we were at his kitchen table just talking. It explains why music is important to him, and why he started playing the guitar.


This is a historical fiction series about an Englishman named Richard Sharpe who rises up the ranks of Wellington's army during the war against Napoleon. Sharpe and his faithful sergeant, Sergeant Harper, fight their way from Portugal to Waterloo with all the major and minor battles along the way. There is a lot of action, great villains, and descriptions of actual battles, places and people. It's better to read the books in chronological order than in the order they were published as Cornwell went back to when Sharpe meets Wellington and Harper in later books. I found that I would end up looking up the places and battles after reading each book.



This is an amazing book. I enjoyed reading the choices Springsteen made that led to him becoming one of our greatest musicians and lyricists.  He talks how he had to differentiate himself with other popular acts to be noticed when he was starting out and decided it would be his live performances and his lyrics. I enjoyed how he separated his personal life from his career and fame (his wife is also a famous musician) throughout the novel.


Dryden covers what it was like to be on the 1970s Montreal Canadians (one of the best teams ever), the Canada/Russia '72 Summit Series, Montreal vs the Red Army game (New Years '75) and how it felt to go from a superstar rookie to feeling like, in his own words, "[he'd] lost them" (referring to the fans). He's not braggy and even comes off as a bit nerdy compared to his blue-collar teammates. His book isn't a tell-all tabloid-type book, but it has lots of interesting stories on his teammates and coaches such as Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe, Lafleur, and Scotty Bowman.



Carole King had 1 of the greatest albums ever sold by a woman, but what I didn’t know was  how she wrote for so many other artists. Some of my favourite songs by other artists were written by her and her late husband at the time. I loved learning this. I also enjoyed reading about how she overcame financial issues, a divorce, and being an artist in the early 60’s trying to make a living as a writer first and performer second. I think anyone interested in music would enjoy this book, regardless of gender.


This is a great book for fans of historical fiction. It follows the life of an Aztec named Mixtli from his childhood to old age. It takes place during the years from the Aztec Empires peak to the arrival of Cortez and his conquistador and the destruction of the Aztecs. The book is very intense with violence, sex, human sacrifices, and cruelty, but it all goes with the flow of the story. You learn about Aztec culture and what it was like day-to-day in a story format. The book is over 1,000 pages and a bit hard to read with all the ancient words but is still worth it.



This was a book told by a musician who became who is because of who he knew. Clemons talks about growing up as a young black man and how his parents wanted him to be different from everyone else so they gifted him a Saxophone. He talks about how this instrument would then propel him through life as one of the greatest musicians of all time.  How it allowed and afforded him the life he had and the friends he gained throughout his career. I love stories like this, where one small thing has the power to change the course of someone's entire life.


I like reading detective novels and Connelly's series about Harry Bosch is my favourite, followed closely by Ian Rankin's John Rebus. The first book (Black Echo) has Harry working in the elite Hollywood Division as a top investigator who believes it's his "mission" to bring murderers to justice. The problem is he has no patience for anyone else who won't give 110% and is always butting heads with his superiors. This attitude leads to demotions and suspensions and by the 20th book he is 65 years old, forced into retirement and working part-time for the lowly San Fernando Police Department. Through the course of the series you learn all about what makes Harry tick through his days in Vietnam, his troubled childhood, relationships with his partners, and the cases he solves. The story lines are so exciting that it's hard not to skip ahead to find out who the murderer or murderers are.



I had the opportunity to meet with Goodwyn many years ago in our mutual hometown Hudson, Quebec. I grew up listening to him and his band, April Wine. Meagan got me this book last year and it was a great read. I loved learning how he became who he is and why he continued to maintain the band after so many years.












I had been searching for this book for years, ever since I read the Joan Didion biography by Tracy Daugherty and he said John Gregory Dunne describes his first sexual encounter with Joan in his "semi-autobiographical / semi fiction" book Vegas: A Memoir of a Dark Season. Creepy right? I was never able to track it down, so I ended up ordering a used copy off of Amazon. To my surprise it showed up in almost perfect condition (a 1974 edition) and with a front cover showcasing a pair of boobs. Anyways, finally I've found it and I've read it, and here is my review!

To start, Dunne dedicates this book to Noel Paramental... his long-time "mentor," but also Joan's first serious boyfriend. I don't know if this is the most passive aggressive move I've seen in literature or if it is actually genuine. I think it's safe to say the three had a very complicated relationship. Either way, it was interesting to see.

It's hard to describe what style this book falls into. Even Dunne seems to have difficulty describing it as a "fiction which recalls a time both real and imagined."

[...] the Catholicism of my childhood remains the one salient fact of my life. It was an experience predicated on habit rather than on faith, a comforting habit, like a swim before breakfast or a drink before dinner, so that when I drifted away from the Church in the later years it was less a loss of faith than the erosion of a routine."
Essentially Dunne goes to Vegas to try and help his writer's block / get a break from his marriage, or in his words, he went because,

It had been a bad spring, it had been a bad winter, it had been a bad year." 

Dunne is also obsessed with his own death (and yes I suppose we all are) and suggests this is another reason he decides to go to Vegas. After a doctor tells him his heart is pretty much hanging on by a thread (another real life tidbit) he sees a billboard advertising for Vegas:

'Then what are you doing in Vegas for? The climate?' How does one explain a billboard that said, Visit Las Vegas Before Your Number's Up."


Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne
He meets a few "persons of interest" and details his conversations with them. The book focuses on a prostitute, a detective, and a comedian. The entire book Dunne acknowledges how he isn't getting any work done, and that this project in Vegas isn't really working out. His wife describes him as "clinically detached."

Right off the bat I'll start by saying while some of this is definitely fictionalized, after reading as much as I possibly could about Joan, I do know what is for sure true. For example, Dunne LOVES hookers... I know from his memoir Harp that he lost his virginity to one, but also that he slept with A LOT of prostitutes while positioned in the army.

I also know that the first time Dunne and Didion slept together was after they spent time watching a woman in an apartment building across from Dunne's:

I would not watch her obsessively, but failed to define 'obsessively.' I was James Stewart in Rear Window, a Hitchcock hero and not a dirty old man. I was a voyeur and not a Peeping Tom (the one seemed less pathological and clinical than the other)."

Again, Dunne is a self-described "voyeur." He would ALWAYS search through people's medicine cabinets while at parties, and he would stop in random apartment complexes to look through people's mail. He is incredibly nosy, but I think these are things he loved to work into his books.

My favourite character he writes about is the prostitute. She is going to beauty school in the day and turning tricks on the Vegas strip at night. She is also a talented poet, and this was one of my favourite passages in the book:

Sometimes I find my life a maze, Of lonely nights and aspirin days. Longing for the golden cup, Terrified of waking up. Easy nights and twenty-one, A life that's over before it's begun."



This book was interesting because while he barely really talks about his relationship with the "fictional" wife, you still understand how uncomfortable things are in their marriage at this stage. It makes me sad because while I definitely idealize Dunne and Didion's marriage, I've had to face all the problems they've faced - and how often they've considered divorce. Apparently Dunne had lived in hotels for weeks in the same state to try and avoid arguments.

This is one of my favourite passages in the book because it is so clearly a conversation they could have had:

Jackie's got me a date with a nineteen-year-old tonight. She's supposed to suck me and fuck me. 'It's research,' she said. 'It's a type, the girl who's always available to fuck the comic's friend. You're missing the story if you don't meet her.'
'But I don't want to fuck her.' There was a long silence at the other end of the telephone. 
'Well, that can be part of the story, too,' she said."


Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne at home working a piece
It's funny that the wife in this book describes the main character as "clinically detached" seeing as this is so fitting of Didion herself. And you can see, this is her seemingly unbothered in her husband sleeping with another woman.

I was a LITTLE disappointed with this book. I had really high hopes only because it was so explicitly semi-autobiographical. Whenever I read anything of Dunne's or Didion's I can see all the stuff they pulled from real life (because I know their entire library of work so well *humble brag*). So I will say that this book is far below my love of Dutch Shea, Jr. and HarpVegas: A Memoir of a Dark Season is also incredibly crude, as is most of Dunne's writing. So if you are uncomfortable with the verbs "sucking and fucking" then I would skip this one.












On Tuesday, December 19th, my boyfriend and I interviewed Horace Wormely, one of our favourite players from our city's National Basketball League team. Pasadena, California, native Wormely is a point guard for the Saint John Riptide and has quickly become a fan favourite not just for his style of play, but also for his charming persona and great Twitter presence.

I have always wanted to interview Wormely because he is an AVID reader. He is always tweeting about dystopian novels and whatever else he is carrying around at practice. You can listen to our full interview where we talk about basketball in Canada, the NBA, movies, books, and music.

I was on an all-time high the entire next day because my love of basketball had fully collided with my love of books. Imagine my excitement that I got to talk about JOAN DIDION, the love of my life, with one of my favourite basketball players?!?

I have condensed and transcribed the interview to highlight our discussion about books.

Meghan Hayes: I thought of you because I was reading from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and he was saying professional athletes get a lot of time to read. Do you think this is true? And do you find you've had a lot of time before practice to read?

Horace Wormely: We have so much down time. And that's how you get in trouble. And it's also how you, as players, advance. It's really what you do with the time you spend away from basketball. I guess coming from the States, I know Europe is a little bit different, but in the States and Canada in high school and college there's a schedule set for you. And so when you become a professional, that schedule, it's really on you to create for yourself. And you go from two hours of practice, an hour of weights, class, breakfast, study group, more practice, it's very strict stuff. Then you drop to just two hours of practice, what do you do with the rest of that time? So for me, I've been able to have really good mentors and teammates. I had really good culture and a support system to feed me books and really interesting things to grow and fill my time and I'm thankful for that.

MH: Are you reading anything right now?

HW: Yeah, yeah! I'm reading Moxyland [by Lauren Beukes], I'm a huge fan of dystopian novels, one of my favourites is 1984 [by George Orwell]. I ended the beginning of this year reading Piano Player by Kurt Vonnegut. I just love dystopian novels so Moxyland is in that vain. 

Oh, another one, Ready Player One [by Ernest Cline]. Spielberg is actually making it into a movie. I read that one last season. I've just kept this theme going with dystopian novels. So, Moxyland, the book is set in 2019 so it's not too far in the future, but it's in South Africa and it's about these young renegades, revolutionaries trying to overthrow this big brother of a government who is trying to control them through technology. So no one can pull away from their phones, which is great cause it's kind of where we're at. Not to give too much of the book away but Moxyland is really, really cool. 

MH: Ok I definitely wrote it down, and I know last year you were tweeting about Children of Men [by PD James]. You were a really big fan. 

HW: Oh man, PD James. That was an excellent book. 


photo from Wormely's Twitter @pointgvrd



MH: So what is it about, science fiction? It seems like maybe there's a theme of political unrest? Or...?

HW: I think that there is so much with that setting and plot, so much humanity to be pulled out of it. I think against the backdrop of, and maybe this is my poet-heart speaking, but there's so much beauty for me and I get to see it set against an ugly frame. The framing of the photo or the picture doesn't really change the picture exactly, but I guess the juxtaposition of the two allows me to kind of see the beauty and it pulls out the beauty within humanity, how people of different walks of life, different socioeconomic backgrounds, difference races, different whatevers can still come together and there's still this common interest. So I always find that thread.

For me, 1984 was really big because it ended up after the second or third time I read it that I started to see it as a love story. And that's what it became for me. The same thing happened for Children of Men. It ended up being this love story, maybe not between man and woman, but just for mankind. You start to appreciate, well, 'maybe we can't have children anymore', so if we can't have children anymore we value life differently. It just gives you that opportunity to kind of, step away from the book, go back to reality and now I look at a child that may pass me by differently. You know, you look at immigration differently. You look at all these different issues with a new set of eyes. So I enjoy it for that reason. 

MH: I know, I have a lot of friends who are standoffish towards science fiction. They see it as a cluster of ten books, all in a series, where nothing is based in reality. But the best science fiction is like Children of Men, or Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, the stuff that deals with a really specific human issue but there's a little bit of reality that's not what's going on right now.

Ben Silcox: It's funny, you get people really angry about those books but then you take examples like Children of Men and Never Let Me Go, and both are super acclaimed films. Did you see Children of Men?

HW: I did. I watched it after [reading it] and I hated it. When you read the book, maybe I should have given it some space. Right after I finished the book I watched the movie, but they left out the main part! I forget the character's name but when he got beat, I was like 'ahh that was my part!'... I was emotionally attached to it and they took it out. So I said, 'forget this movie'... but I'll watch it again. *laughter*

MH: Is that a trend though? I know a lot of big time readers, and it's always a thing you know, do you enjoy the movie after you read the book? They can take a little bit of leeway and I try to think of it like the movie is now a different thing, but do you find that happens? Do you read the book and you'll always kind of favour the book more?

HW: It's true for me. It has to be one or the other. So I wanted to go back and read Game of Thrones [by George R. R. Martin], I watched it, loved it, and I wanted to go back and read the book but my friends were like 'uhh you're gonna be upset, cause we're upset watching the show.' So I find for me it is one or the other, I have to pick movie, show, or book. Otherwise I'm frustrated. The book is usually better because I get to create my own thing. 


photo from Wormely's Twitter @pointgvrde



MH: So from books, have you read Joan Didion yet? I know you've tweeted about it. 

*laughter*

Not yet eh? (He's shaking his head no.)

HW: I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I have a really long list on my phone of books that I have to buy and read, and she is top of the list. I did get a chance to watch her doc on Netflix.

MH: Any first impressions?

HW: Oh man I love her. Her look is really dainty, but she's fierce. And I was like, 'oh man that's me'! *laughter* So I got attached to her instantly. I'm excited to read her books.

MH: I'm a really big Joan Didion fan, so when I saw you tweet about her I was like 'ahhh! Riptide and Joan Didion colliding'!!

HW: My mom, she loved Joan Didion. She suggested it, that's why I originally tweeted it. And when you replied I was like 'mom look' and she was like 'yeah she knows what she's talking about.' So shout out to mom. Oh my god I'm not going to be able to go home. 

*laughter*

MH: It's interesting though because she writes a lot about California so I think you'll like her. That's probably how your mom heard of her too. She grew up in Sacramento and writes a lot about California. 

HW: Especially the beach and Venice right? From what I've heard...

MH: Yes... So going back again to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar... a lot of reading, but also obviously he does a lot of writing. He's written a lot of books. I knew he wrote a lot of non-fiction about his own life, I didn't realize he wrote stuff about like Sherlock Holmes' brother...

HW: I didn't know that.

MH: Yes!

BS: It's like Sherlock Holmes fanfic.

*laughter*

HW: He's an amazing human being. 

MH: But you write a lot too, don't you?

HW: I do. I write a lot. Actually I'm working on a book. It's indirectly my autobiography, if you will. A little bit. You'll find common little threads or nuggets of just things I kind of went through. I don't necessarily want to talk about me, I think that's probably the introvert in me a little bit, but I did want to get across this intersection of basketball with life. And how ugly basketball can be sometimes, but then how beautiful it can be in the midst of all the ugliness. 

There's a lot of parallels between, like let's say, labour relations and trying to develop a union. In basketball we can use an international union, so... I try to just draw those parallels out because a lot of the language that we communicate through in basketball, I found myself being able to use when I couldn't speak or didn't understand Spanish, or German, or Mandarin ... when I was playing in all these places. The language we speak through and that I was able to learn the quickest and most simply was basketball.

So you learn how to pronounce 'screen' in these languages. Those are the first words I learned in these different languages, basketball terms. That kind of generated the idea for this parallel idea I guess. Trying to intersect the parallels if you will, between basketball. Using this 'basketball' language but also talking about the real world, real life, meaningful things.

So like, I'm trying to do it in essay form. Kind of like my rap album. *laughs* That's what it feels like to me. Just putting together track lists of songs that have the same kind of theme, but different little topics. My goal now is to just try and write twenty-five by August 2018, which is kind of outlandish though but I'll shoot for the stars. From there, compile them, and give them to a few of my mentors to see what they think. 


photo from Wormely's Twitter @pointgvrd



MH: Do you keep a notebook with you?

HW: Oh yeah, I write everywhere I possibly can. So there are pieces of essays on my phone, the track list if you will is on my phone, my little moleskin, my journal has pieces of essays in them. And I keep a lot of things on , it's a platform that I use cause it helps. I can be on my phone and when I want to put it into a finished format I can just hop onto Medium and put it in there. That's my writing process. 

MH: You're going to love Joan Didion.

HW: Oh yeah?

MH: She writes a lot about process.

Wormely (4) playing for the Saint John Riptide in the NBL. Photo by Michael Robinson. 


You can follow Wormely on Twitter ! He is constantly posting photos of recent reads or purchases.











Meghan

Another book club under our belts. What is everyone's final thoughts? Or should I say, Meg, what are your final thoughts?

Overall I think I enjoyed the book but definitely don't want to read it again. It makes me pretty curious what Jennifer Egan's Pultizer Prize-winner A Visit From the Goon Squad is like. Because Manhattan Beach certainly isn't an award winner in my mind. I would recommend this book to anyone who really enjoys a period piece, or something that is pretty reliant on plot movement. But don't get me wrong, this is a very well written book.

My favourite part about the ending was the really beautiful fog imagery. I was especially interested in this because Saint John is constantly foggy. I grew up on the west side right beside the Bay of Fundy so my neighbourhood was always smothered in fog - something I preferred given how much I hate the heat. The uptown core is also on the harbour front, so you usually have to wait until afternoon for the fog to burn off. Anyways, this imagery has always been present in my own life, so to see it written about so beautifully really stuck with me:

She was surprised to find him watching the fog. It rolled in fast: a wild, volatile silhouette against the phosphorescent sky. It reared up over the land like a tidal wave about to break, or the aftermath of a silent, distant explosion."


Meagan



I feel kind of glad this book is over because as I mentioned last week, I lost the plot a little bit.


One of my favourite parts is that Anna decides to make up a dead husband so she can just be a single mom in a new place. What a sweet kind of freedom this would be to just move and pretend you had a whole life once before so nobody asks you why you don't have one now. I think Anna has been such an admirable character throughout for not pining over men or freaking out about her independence. I wonder if this comes from watching her mother after her dad left? What inspires a young woman who comes from a nuclear family where women didn't work to go get a job, a traditionally male job at that, and raise a baby alone?

I liked this book for the characters but not for the plot really. I found it to be slow and less than inspiring. I do have A Visit from the Goon Squad sitting on my bookshelf which I imagine I'll definitely read but I'm not rushing to it based on this one.












I am so not the right person to be writing this review, mainly because I know ZERO about the topic (even after reading the book weirdly), and secondly because I like Joan Didion a fraction of the amount Meghan does. I've even come to the conclusion this year that I dislike her fiction, which is a very unpopular opinion around here. In any case, please do not let this bad attempt to review one of her older and most niche books dis-sway you from her writing. She has some very, very beautiful books that need to be consumed and you can take a look at her full repertoire in Meghan's author spotlight found .

This book is about the Cuban exiles in Miami, and impact they have on the state of Florida (mainly Miami as the title would suggest) and the way politics, business, and language now operate there. It is an extremely difficult read, to the point where I had to re-read certain pages multiple times because I wasn't following the chronology or couldn't remember the names of the political figures she was mentioning. It's very dry, and it's very matter of fact. There are no embellished romantic story lines to get you through it.

There were Cubans in boardrooms of the major banks, Cubans in clubs that did not admit Jews or blacks, and four Cubans in the most recent mayoralty campaign... The entire tone of the city, the way people looked and talked and met one another, was Cuban. The very image the city had begin presenting of itself, what was then its newfound glamour, its 'hotness' (hot colors, hot vice, shady dealings under the palm trees), was that of prerevolutionary Havana, as perceived by Americans. There was even in the way women dressed in Miami a definable Havana look, a more distinct emphasis on the hips and decolletage, more black, more veiling, a generalized flirtatiousness of style not then current in American cities."

Didion analyzes life for the Cuban exiles throughout multiple presidents, a few major political events, such as the Bay of Pigs and Watergate, and from multiple perspectives. This was probably my favourite feature of the book, how Didion spoke to different groups of people and documented the way they perceived various events based on their relationship with the exiles, their race, their political views, etc. There was a comedic element to this, how the irony of the way groups saw certain events dictated their behaviours. However, I do not know an ounce enough about the politics at this time to even comment on this aspect of the book.

Joan Didion, the love of Meghan's life (after me)


What was interesting to me is how similar the environment she writes about is to the current situation in America. I'm not American so there's no way to know if what I'm saying is true, but as an observer, it would appear that the way some Americans treat immigrants, whether they are Cuban or otherwise, has not changed so much from 1987 when this book was written. I particularly loved this passage indicating how immigrants are expected to assimilate fully to American culture, except for when Americans like an aspect of their culture, then they can keep it for the American benefit:

Cubans were perceived as most satisfactory when they appeared to most fully share the aspirations and manners of middle-class Americans, at the same time adding "color" to the city on appropriate occasions, for example... on the day of the annual Calle Ocho Festival, when they could, according to the Herald, 'samba' in the streets and stir up a paella for two thousand using rowboat oars as spoons."

I also thought this pamphlet Didion describes was quite funny in a similar vein:

A ten-page pamphlet found, along with $119-500 in small bills, in the Turberry Isle apartment of an accused cocaine importer gave these tips for maintaining a secure profile: 'Try to imitate an American in all his habits. Mow the lawn, wash the car, etc.... Have an occasional barbecue, inviting trusted relatives.'

What simple doorknobs North Americans must seem like to other cultures... mow the lawn... wash the car...

I also thought that the below passage struck a chord in today's climate. Obviously the instruments are different but you still hear about situations like the one below today. It's insane... we think we've made progress but:

When a delegation of black citizens had asked the same year that a certain police officer be transferred, after conduct which had troubled the community, off his Liberty City beat, they were advised by the Miami chief of police that their complaint was 'silly.' Several weeks later it was reported that the officer in question and his partner had picked up a black seventeen-year-old, charged him with carrying a concealed knife, forced him to strip naked, and dangled him by his heels a hundred feet over the Miami River, from an unfinished span of the Dolphin Expressway."

So to wrap up this shitty review- I really enjoyed the learning aspect of this book. I love Miami (the city) and I love the culture that's there. It was fascinating to get a political history of why it looks, feels, behaves the way it does today. If you've read anything by Didion you'll know her style has the ability to make anything interesting, she could play with the syntax in a way that makes the story of a dog shitting sound glamorous. 

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone whose not deeply interested in this topic, or at least in American history. It's not that it was bad I just don't know why you'd read it. I don't know why I read it, except of course to read more Didion and feel closer to Meghan (my goal in everything I do).








I picked this book up at a used book store in the Milwaukee airport back in January. I knew that I loved Jonathan Safran Foer's non-fiction writing based on my experience with  but I didn't have a lot of knowledge of the topic or narrative style of this one. I will say, in terms of both, this book was a difficult read for me.

The story is really two. Foer switches between his personal trip to the Ukraine in search of a woman who saved his grandfather's life during the Holocaust, and a  second story line- a 'fictional' history of his family who lived in a small town that was taken out by Nazis. I put fictional in quotes because I think he tried to stay true to history but how is anyone to know really... he definitely took some creative freedoms with the plot. Because of the multiple narratives, the complex family history being told, and the fact that some chapters are entirely told through letters, it was a bit hard to keep up with the plot at times. Despite it being a more difficult read, I still feel strongly about Foer's ability to write non-fiction. He knows how to keep facts and history educational but also entertaining.

Jonathan Safran Foer


This book is that kind of sad where you want to put it down and just take to your bed. I personally love this kind of book but this is not the thing, my mother, for example, could ever handle. It's obviously sad in that it's about the Holocaust, but it's even more sad on a deeper level when he writes about the relationships between the characters. Foer uses the Holocaust as a landscape for this story, but it's really about love.

One of my favourite 'pieces' of the story focuses on a woman named Brod who was rescued from a carriage accident as a baby by an elderly gentleman  named Yankel whose wife had left him and whose son had died in a flour mill accident. Yankel is deeply concerned that he's going to get old and forget how to take care of Brod. He writes notes to himself on the ceiling "You are Yankel, you love Brod." He eventually dies and Brod grows up and marries a man they call the Kolker. The Kolker gets a job at the same flour mill where Yankel's son was killed, which is known for being an extremely dangerous workplace, and Brod is devastated. She drives herself crazy waiting for him to come home from work, begging him to quit his job, making him promise over and over again that he won't leave her alone. Eventually, a blade does hit the Kolker in the head and I love this scene where two employees come to tell Brod. Meg and I love a breakdown:

It was halfway into his second month at work when two men from the flour mill knocked on her door. She didn't have to ask why they came, but collapsed immediately to the floor. Go away! she screamed, running her hands up and down the carpet as if it were a new language to learn, another window."

As it turns out, the Kolker is not actually dead, but he did have to leave part of the blade in his skull and he was never the same. He begins abusing Brod. Foer writes her as a stereotypical abuse victim, blaming the blade and insisting she had to stay with him as he was her husband and he was just sick.

Every widow wakes one morning, perhaps after years of pure and unwavering grieving, to realize she slept a good night's sleep, and will be able to eat breakfast, and doesn't hear her husband's ghost all the time, but only some of the time. Her grief is replaced with a useful sadness. Every parent who loses a child finds a way to laugh again. The timbre begins to fade. The edge dulls. The hurt lessens. Every love is carved from loss. Mine was. Yours is. Your great-great-great-grandchildren's will be. But we learn to live in that love.” 

Beyond hard scenes to read regarding relationships, there are some VERY disturbing holocaust scenes written out in detail. I'm not really sure how Foer got through writing them to be honest. He writes full paragraphs where Nazis come through the town, line up all the Jews and hold guns to their children's heads, demand they spit on the Torah and then shoot their families in front of them. It's uncomfortable to read and I had to do so leaning against my boyfriend while he watched hockey, putting the book down every few sentences to just take a breath.

Touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing... memory. While Gentiles experience and process the world through the traditional senses, and use memory only as a second-order means of interpreting events, for Jews memory is no less primary than the prick of a pin, or its silver glimmer, or the taste of the blood it pulls from the finger. The Jew is pricked by a pin and remembers other pins. It is only by tracing the pinprick back to other pinpricks- when his mother tried to fix his sleeve while his arm was still in it, when his grandfather's fingers fell asleep from stroking his great-grandfather's damp forehead, when Abraham tested the knife point to be sure Isaac would feel no pain- that the Jew is able to know why it hurts. When a Jew encounters a pin, he asks: What does it remember like?"

Foer finds out at the end of his trip to the Ukraine with his grandfather that there had been an incident where his grandfather gets his best friend killed to save his family. All the men are ushered to the synagogue and asked at gunpoint to point out all the Jews in the town or risk having their families shot. Foer's grandfather pointed a finger at his lifelong friend Hershel to save his family and has kept it a secret all these years until this trip back to the Ukraine. Reading a about a man admitting this to his grandson is heartbreaking. Nobody can imagine being in that position, and nobody can ever tell him it was the right or wrong thing to do. He says to Foer:

You had to choose, and hope to choose the smaller evil."

After all the Jews were pointed out they were kept in the synagogue while Nazis set it on fire. Foer's grandfather fled from his town with his family. It's uncomfortable for me to even be putting this on the internet in a way.

I am not sad, he would repeat to himself over and over, I am not sad. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others -- The only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad.” 

Elijah Wood as Jonathan Safran Foer in the 2005 film adaptation


I've watched a lot of movies involving the Holocaust, I studied it in school, I can tell you the facts about what happened. I feel like this book was so much more difficult for me because the events affected characters I felt like I'd come to know. I met a friend this year whose parents are both Holocaust survivors. She can tell me the same statistic I learned in school but it feels different coming from her, having affected someone I've grown to care about. When this is posted I'll be in Israel for my first time and I'm super glad I was able to finish this book before I left so I can have a deeper appreciation for the history I'll be seeing there.

I'm all alone, he said.
You're not alone, she said, taking his head to her chest.
I am.
You're not alone, she said. You only feel alone.
To feel alone is to be alone. That's what it is."

There's only a handful of people I'd recommend this to... Meghan for one (but she's already read it), other JSF fans who just want to read more of his work, or people who I know would connect with the subject matter, like the friend I mentioned above, for example. This isn't the kind of thing you just pick up off the shelf for a weekend read. As far as Jewish history books go, fiction or nonfiction, this one is about as good, personal, and educational as it gets. The only other one I've read in a similar vein that was as good is Anne Michaels' Fugitive Pieces. I had to read it for a lit class in University and halfway through the professor cut it from the syllabus and I e-mailed him begging to add it back on because I wanted to discuss it in a classroom setting. He did. I'm pushy. 



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ul { list-style-type: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; overflow: hidden; background-color: #333; } li { float: left; } li a { display: block; color: white; text-align: center; padding: 14px 16px; text-decoration: none; } li a:hover:not(.active) { background-color: #111; } .active { background-color: #4CAF50; } DMCA report abuse Home Todas Pastas Auto Post sitemap Blog "Sem Imagens" oLink xxx Return of the King by Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin Tags:#lebron, #that, #this, #time, #like, #even, #game, #player, #king, #team, #watch, #play, #ever, #great, #they, #learn, #learned, #read, Search:lebron, that, this, time, like, even, game, player, king, team, watch, play, ever, great, they, learn, learned, read, How do I describe my feelings for Lebron James? I can tell you that I've gone to sleep not speaking to my boyfriend ~5 times this playoff season because he disrespected Lebron. Or that when my friend Stefan said Lebron was the greatest athlete of all time I felt like he could have complimented him even more.Because of my undying love and admiration for Lebron, I decided to try my first "sports biography" to try and advance my status as a basketball fan. I'd already committed to watching games everyday on League Pass, I went to a game in Toronto, I started a basketball podcast, lead a failed all-female rec league, AND spent my days reading long-form player profiles... this was the next step.As a reader I usually avoid biographies (Meg and I have always leaned towards memoirs), but I decided it was finally time to start collecting player biographies and so I bought one on Michael Jordon (The Life by Roland Lazenby) and Return of the King: Lebron James, The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Greatest Comeback in NBA History by Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin. Once Lebron retires I'm sure he will write a memoir and I will be lining up at 5 a.m. to buy it.What follows is less a book review than it is an open love letter to Lebron James:I got into basketball after a particularly bad breakup. I didn't originally choose the Cleveland Cavaliers as my NBA team because of Lebron. I actually chose them because of a family connection between JR Smith, a shooting guard for the Cavs, and Chris Smith (JR's younger brother), a player on my local professional basketball team at the time. My second thought was "oh and Lebron James is on that team, even I know who he is." And yes, this was the year the Cavaliers became the 2016 NBA Champions.So imagine I pick an NBA team, casually watch them play all year, AND THEN WATCH THEM COME BACK FROM A 3-1 DEFICIT TO BEAT THE GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, AS WELL AS COUNTLESS NBA RECORDS!!! This was the first championship for the city of Cleveland in 52 years. Naturally it can be assumed that I broke the Cleveland curse, and I've been in love with Lebron ever sense. His narrative is just too good.Lebron is the greatest athlete of all time, better then any living or deceased athlete that ever stepped on a basketball court. He's in his 15th season and his story already reads like a beautiful piece of literature: he returned home, promised his native-state of Ohio he'd bring them a championship, and against all odds, he delivered.But it's not just the pure athleticism that makes me so obsessed with him. It's him calling Donald Trump a "bum" on Twitter, his marriage to his high school girlfriend Savannah, and his ability to deal with pressure that would literally kill me. It's also the fact that Lebron hasn't even really done anything wrong ... I know this isn't really something that should be treated like an accomplishment, but in the world of celebrities it's often more rare than you'd like to think.Return of the King opens up with a forward from Richard Jefferson which was only just okay. I do love Jefferson and I think he will make a great broadcaster, but his write up was a little too heavy on him telling everyone he was retiring and then taking it all back. I wanted more Lebron.Windhorst and McMenamin's book never really gets too personal about Lebron, which was kind of disappointing. They try to paint you a good picture of what his mindset must have been when he "took his talents to South Beach" and what he was going through when he returned home to Ohio.I will say that while this book was missing a lot of the personal details I hoped to learn about Lebron, I did learn A LOT of random stuff about players on the Cavaliers:I learned that POS-Dan Gilbert bought the Cavs in 2005 for $375 million dollars. I got to read his disgusting letter calling Lebron "disloyal and a coward," which enraged me.I learned how even though Lebron leaving made most of the world hate him, it was a big step for player freedom and autonomy in the NBA.James had been badly burned by the Decision broadcast in 2010, even though he and his team still believed it was a forward-thinking idea that put the power in the player's hands. It had raised seven figures for charity and changed the nature of the way athletes looked at making big announcements." I learned that JR Smith "had been offended when he heard how the Knicks were basically attempting to give him away and attach him to Shumpert like a bad debt. [And that] he told Griffin he'd 'walk to Cleveland.'I learned that Lebron watches games in the league CONSTANTLY. I know this sounds obvious but I think he watches more than any other player. He has a TV in his car with a game always on, and he's had family and friends waiting for him after one of his games while he sits in the locker room finishing up streaming a game on his phone. He once complained about the NBA app and some bugs it had and they quickly fixed it.I learned that the San Antonia arena is hell on Earth.AND I learned that Iman Shumpert delivered his wife's baby in their mansion and was directed over the phone to use a pair of headphones to sever the umbilical cord.Other then all of this, I didn't take too much away from the book. It was a lot of describing how games ended - who had the last assist, who sunk the last shot. I found it pretty boring up until they get to Game 7 the year the Cavs win the finals.I remember sitting on the edge of the couch at my parents house watching this game. My stomach was in knots and I kept saying "they aren't going to win" and my parents kept accusing me of "jinxing it" ... HOW WRONG THEY WERE.Windhorst and McMenamin are good at bringing you back to that moment. They detail Lebron's infamous block of Andre Iguodala, Kevin Love's stop on Curry, Kyrie's 3-pointer, and the eventual meltdown after the win. While I was reading it I was kind of holding my breath - just like I was when I was watching the game live.Winning the 2016 NBA Finals after a 3-1 deficit will always be Lebron's greatest achievement in my eyes. I know a lot of people are saying the fact that he dragged this year's shit team to the playoffs - after two Game 7 series, and a sweeping of the Toronto Raptors (lol) - is an amazing achievement (and it is), but nothing can amount to that 2016 win. Sometimes I sit at my desk and rewatch the last 8 minutes of that 2016 Game 7 and cry.So overall I would say this was a not-great book about an all-time-great player. I want to end this review by saying may all the Lebron haters rot in hell.2018 MOTHERS' DAY SPECIAL: Books our Moms Love We pretty much always have a book on the go and it's been that way since we were kids. For as long as we can remember our parents have also always been reading, whether it be while we were away on a family vacation or at home after eating dinner. I think we definitely started reading because we saw our parents doing it and they always encouraged us by buying pretty much any book we wanted at the Scholastic Book Fair.Left: Meagan's sister Courtney, Meagan, Meagan's mom SandraRight: Meghan's mom Lynn, Meghan, Meghan's sister JulieWe thought we would use May and June to let you know what books they love. And if you haven't gotten your mom a gift for Mother's Day yet, well you're welcome! Here are some of our moms' favourite books and authors, there's definitely something here for your mom too. Thinking it was either 1985 or 1986 that I read this book.  That summer in my teens was when everyone I knew worked different hours at different jobs and I needed some way to kill the time.  My neighbour Mrs. Chisholm used to sit outside and read and gave me this book to see if I liked it. It was my first Danielle Steele novel and I loved it.   Although I don’t remember all the details of the novel as it was 30+ years ago, I do know that the story about Samantha and the emotional and physical struggles she goes through after her husband leaves her had me hooked.  I love romance and anything sappy and this introduction to Danielle Steele had me reading dozens more over the years. This memory will also always stay with me as such a wonderful way to spend time with one of the best women in my life.How do I decide on which novel to talk about? They are all great! Lisa Genova graduated from Bates College with a degree in biopsychology and has a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard. Genova is a gifted writer who takes her knowledge and and understanding of neurological disorders, autism, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and recently ALS, and combines them to create heartwarming stories. She creates stories that take the reader through the journey of such illnesses from the point of view of the recipient of the illness to their family members and coworkers. I think my favourite book of hers has to be Love Anthony. I work with autistic children on a daily basis and this book helped to put things in perspective for me. Her books add the personal stories behind the disease and make you think twice when you hear of someone being diagnosed. I was excited to hear that she had published a new book entitled Every Note Played. I am just reading it now. It is about a famous pianist that has discovered he has ALS. The diagnosis is new to him and it will be interesting to see how he handles the news as well as his family. This seems like an unlikely favorite for me but somehow studying this novel in school made this novel stand out for me.  Not sure if this goes on in schools anymore, but this novel was read aloud in English class and I remember looking forward to that class each day.  This story is a true love story where 2 men (Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton) switch places so that happiness is found for the one woman (Lucie Manette) they both love.  Charles and Lucie marry but it is Sydney Carton who gives his life for her in the end. The book is set during the French Revolution and I am sure it was full of history but it was again the love story that had me hooked. Some of the other characters like Madame Dafarge who was always knitting also had me wanting to read more. When I was younger and still lived at home this popped up in our TV guide – the old paper kind – showing at 2am. I remember pulling out our sofabed couch and watching this movie in the wee hours with my Mom.  I am thinking I may have to read this book again.I love to read all Nicholas Sparks books. I have to admit that they sometimes make me pull out the tissue box. They are an easy read and serve the purpose of relaxing and tend to take my mind off day-to-day worries. I don't like to watch the movies because if I cried reading the book then I will surely cry at the movie. And no one wants to see a grown woman cry at the theatre. Right Meghan and Julie? You can read more about his repertoire in the Nicholas Sparks author spotlight. I am guessing that someone must have owned this novel and given it to me to read as I don’t think I would have ever bought this or taken it out from a library. I cannot remember how old I was when I read it but I do know that I was married with children and often read it at night when the girls were asleep which just added to the spookiness of it.This book is about a blind girl named Amanda who walks with her cane on her familiar path near the tops of the cliffs each day.  One day the other children come and tease her and play tricks on her and Amanda falls off the cliffs and dies in the sea. This is how the book begins and then flashes 100 years ahead when a new family the Pendletons are moving into Paradise Point on these cliffs.  Their daughter finds a doll in the old house and calls it Amanda and of course she connects with dead Amanda and becomes friends. She has a fall off the same cliffs and injures herself and ends up also walking with a cane. Soon the kids begin to tease her and those that do end up dying mysteriously.  Not really sure why this book has stuck with me all these years but when someone is looking for a good spooky book it is one of my first suggestions.I first read this book over ten years ago. Powning is a local author from New Brunswick where the story takes place. This book is about a woman named Kate who lost her husband and how she deals with the unexpected loss. It may sound depressing but it isn't. While cleaning out her attic she finds a box of letters from her grandmother which help Kate through the season of grief. Powning effectively uses nature to describe the emotions that Kate feels during this time. I think it's time that I dust this off and re-read it myself.I think I have read every Judy Blume book written and some of my past favorites are Are you there God, it’s me Margaret, Blubber and of course Forever – the one we read in grade school and hid under our pillow when our mother walked in.  When Summer Sisters came out in 1998 I was very excited to read it. I know that Meagan has just done a review on this novel so not sure I can even begin to write anything remotely close to what she already has, nor do I want to try.  This novel is about friendship, love and being a parent. I think I have read it 3 times and when I get it back I would like to read it at least 3 more times. **note from the editor: you will not be getting this book back.Well I hate to admit this but I like to read her books. After spending so much time reading stuff for school it is nice to sit down and not have to concentrate on what I read. At the end of her books I can't even tell you the name of the characters. Her books are purely for relaxation and only take a few days to read.This was a novel I purchased in the airport convenience store before boarding a plane and picked it up because it was on the bestseller table.  I realized only after reading it that this was her debut novel and it was fantastic. This book is all about 4 siblings (Leo, Jack, Bea and Melody) in the Plumb family and how their lives unfold when their father dies.  They immediately start fighting over the inheritance and it takes us into the lives of each family member. I could relate to this novel being 1 of 4 siblings and found myself thinking about what would happen in our case down the road.  It was wonderfully written and I didn’t want to put it down. This book confirmed what I have always known, that it’s always family first above everything else including money. The story of a little girl in China named Lily who is introduced to Snow Flower. Together they go through the foot binding process. The story follows their life through marriage, child birth, and everyday life in 1823. It is like a coming of age story. The two write secret messages in a secret language that no one else understands. They talk about their fears, their lives, and their hopes and dreams. The author depicts the differences in society and class in a heartwarming way. I have never read a story with such interesting details regarding the Chinese culture. The author has written other stories, however this is my favourite. Manhattan Beach Book Club: Week 7 This section was a lot more exciting than last week's.One line I really liked was when Eddie was talking about life at war and on the ship, and how he starts talking about his messed up family life. Everyone on the ship pretty much just shrugs him off as if they've heard it before and Eddie thinks to himself "the war had made him ordinary."I liked that line so much because this has got to be so true. Everyone is in this miserable situation and are only thinking about themselves. They miss their own messed up family and are probably sick of hearing about everyone else's.I was really annoyed with Dexter forcing his way down on the dive ... of course this man doesn't care that it is incredibly dangerous and that not everyone can just pull it off on a whim. He threatens Anna's two friends and then says to them:"You're in a different world right now, my friend. It may look like the one you know, may smell like it, sound like it, but what goes on here doesn't carry over. When you wake up tomorrow, none of this will have happened."The final thing I will say is that when Anna and Dexter are down there searching for her father's body it really reminded me of stories Meg told me about when she was a life guard. They had to do a search for someone who had drowned and they would line up together and you would do something like 3 pulls forward, one back, waiting to see if they encountered a body. And how the whole time you were just hoping you wouldn't feel something in the dark water.The First Bad Man by Miranda July This was honestly such a weird book. I had no idea what I was expecting or why I wanted to read this but I asked for and received it for Christmas a few years back and only finally got around to reading it. The entire time it's been sitting on my shelf I swore it was non-fiction. I was very wrong.As far as I can tell this is Miranda July's first novel, although she's written short stories before as well as numerous screenplays. The story follows a woman named Cheryl Glickman, who is middle-aged, unmarried, in a power position at her job, and has recurring sexual fantasies about a guy who's on the board at her company. Eventually her boss' angsty daughter moves in with her while she 'gets on her feet' and they begin this very bizarre, somewhat abusive, homosexual relationship.Miranda July... that hair...Cheryl works for a company that makes self-defense exercise type videos. The heroin in the video is 'attacked' by someone in a role play scenario and the sequence to fight off her attacker turns into a fitness routine... this in itself is weird enough. Cheryl and Clee (the boss' daughter) begin acting out these videos at their home and actually beating each other up to the point where they're both addicted to the adrenaline. It then becomes sexual. Even more weird, right? I am POSITIVE there is some underlying feminist message to this that is going completely over my head. This book was way too well-received and had too many reviews by Lena Dunham for there not to be something I'm missing here...I really liked Cheryl's character at the beginning. While she was quirky as all hell, I felt she was very well-written and relatable. For one, she is psychotic in the pursuit of her crush. At one point he texts her saying he's off to do groceries and she prowls the grocery stores close to his house hoping for an 'accidental encounter' She is also lonely, feeling hopeless, and not extremely attractive. We should all be reading more Cheryl's and spending less time on the Instagram explore page. However, I feel like Cheryl lost this during and after the relationship with Clee. I'm going to spoil some of the plot here so beware... we eventually learn Clee is pregnant and her and Cheryl decide to raise the baby together. After the birth however, Clee, being still so young, falls into a depression. She doesn't want to be tied down to this middle-aged woman and a baby. It's at this point Cheryl becomes way too mature for my liking. Some could say this has to do with her new role as a mother, and doing what's best for their baby, but either way I didn't care for it.Weathered and broken down by a burden so heavy that anyone could see it: here was a woman who hated her life. And this was how she planned to get through it, by sitting on the curb, smoking. How long had she been depressed? Months, that was obvious now. She'd been smoking out here since we brought Jack home. It must happen all the time, a fleeting passion overwhelms someone's true course and there's nothing to be done about it."She eventually just tells Clee to go live her life, and I find this wildly unrealistic for someone who was so psychotic a year earlier. Clee has ruined her life at work (everyone looks down at Cheryl for pursuing a homosexual relationship with the boss' daughter and being showy about it at the office, as well as encouraging Clee to keep the baby and helping her raise it). I just find it hard to believe she would be so cool and collected about letting Clee just run off with a young twenty year old after all that... but alas... I do love this little passage:We had fallen in love; that was still true. But given the right psychological conditions, a person could fall in love with anyone or anything. A wooden desk- always on all fours, always prone, always there for you. What was the lifespan of these improbable loves? An hour. A week. A few months at best. The end was a natural thing, like the seasons, like getting older, fruit turning. That was the saddest part- there was no one to blame and no way to reverse it."Isn't this SO true? It's what I've always said about The Bachelor. Half the time the guys are gross but there's a real syndrome making all the girls love them anyways... It ought to be studied.I didn't enjoy this book. It could just be because it wasn't at all what I was expecting when I picked it up, but I also just didn't really like the story. It was very weird and I wouldn't recommend anybody read it. Looking at some of July's other work, I honestly can't see myself trying anything new by her either. As I mentioned before, there has to be more to this book. I just didn't see it.Manhattan Beach Book Club: Week 2 Surprisingly enough I'm really enjoying this so far. I say surprisingly because I'm normally bored of 'historical' war-time fiction. I think it must have to do with Egan. She is so descriptive with every character she introduces that I feel like I honestly know them. From Dexter's perspective especially I really loved this description of his brother in law:'Sounds dangerous,' Cooper said with a glance at his father, although it wasn't clear whether he meant dangerous to the girls or to the world. Likely Cooper didn't know. He was a weaker, far less intelligent version of his father, the embodiment of the limitations of their breed... Cooper would never tell Arthur Berringer anything he didn't know, whereas Dexter saw and knew things the old man couldn't afford to, without personal compromise."I also feel like I'm learning a surprising amount about the time period, which, shocker! is likely why people enjoy reading this genre. It's amazing to me how much work goes into rebuilding one single war ship... only for it to possibly get destroyed in a near instant.I'm excited to find out what happened with Anna's dad... how he could possibly up and leave his family, especially when Lydia requires so much attention. I love the way Egan writes about Anna's acceptance of him leaving:She had never cried. When she'd believed he was about to return there had been nothing to cry about, and when at last she'd stopped believing it was too late. His absence had calcified. When she caught herself wondering where he might be, doing what, she forced herself to stop. He didn't deserve it. That much, at least, she could deny him. She presumed her mother had made a similar passage, but she wasn't even sure. Her father had slipped from their conversation as ineffably as he'd dropped from their lives. It would feel odd to mention him now. And there was no need to."One thing I know for sure is that Anna would handle a breakup WAY differently than I do. I think the strength she has here explains a lot about her job, and how she's going to pursue diving.I'm wondering why Anna lied about who she was when she met Dexter... if that's related to her dad's disappearance... and how? I'm sure we're about to find out. I like to think if my dad went away for longer than he was meant to we wouldn't assume he had ABANDONED us but who knows...Manhattan Beach Book Club: Week 6 I didn't love this section as much as the others only because we built up Anna and Dexter so much and then immediately abandoned that plot line to go back in time with Eddie. I didn't really care that much about Eddie's history but it was heartbreaking to read about his opinions on Lydia. I can only imagine how hard it would be to have a child who is sick, I assume you'd definitely blame yourself, but it really sucks that it inhibits the relationship you have with that child as well. It was crazy reading how he wished she'd just been a stillborn, but I think despite the guilt of thinking that, a lot of parents in similar situations probably share that sentiment at some point or another.I don't really understand what's about to happen in the next section... is Dexter sending Anna down to dive for her dad's dead body? Is that what's going on?Manhattan Beach Book Club: Week 8 I'm the wrong person to be writing this week's post because somewhere in the middle of this section I lost the plot. I'm not sure if Egan was switching time periods too quickly or between characters but I have no idea why Dexter died... I have no idea why her dad was killed and how he ends up at the bottom of that lake. Did she explain? Can someone explain it to me?The scenes of them escaping via lifeboat brought back so many flashbacks to In the Heart of the Sea. I love to listen to Meghan recount the symptoms of dehydration for me from having read this book. The idea that your tongue turns rock hard is enough for me to have jumped off the boat. It's also crazy how despite KNOWING the salt water will make it worse, you almost can't help but drink it. Grown, smart, survival-inclined men will drink the ocean at a certain point when they get too thirsty.One thing I found interesting is how cool Anna is about her relationship with Dexter. I mentioned this a few weeks back, how we don't see her super sexualized... until the softcore porn where they have sex... and then not again after. She doesn't seem shaken to see him or to dive with him, she isn't begging him to spend more time together, she doesn't appear to be angry with him for anything... it just seems like they are old friends who had sex and then now have a job to do...Everything is Perfect When You're a Liar by Kelly Oxford I have to say I am very late to the game reading this, which was released back in 2013. I feel confident I didn't have the sense of humour to appreciate it in 2013 though, so I don't feel too bad about being late here. For those of you who don't know, Kelly Oxford is a Canadian screenwriter. I'm sure she won't take offense to me saying that she's mostly famous for being funny on Twitter, since I've never watched anything she's ever written. She's from Edmonton, Alberta and moved to California with her family to pursue her career in film. I think she's very cool although part of me does find her extremely annoying because she did all the things I'd never have the balls to do and found success out of it, and now gets to hang out with Busy Phillips all the time.EIPWYAL is her first novel. It's very similar to the genre of celebrity memoirs I love the read where she outlines what her childhood was like and discusses her various relationships. I will say this is definitely at the top of the 'funny' list for this genre of reading. Because Oxford is not your typical big screen celebrity who is dripping in fame, her humour comes from a dry, sarcastic, and bitter place that I love. She is smart enough to recognize that she's not the richest or hottest woman in any room, but she's also mature enough to joke about it.Kelly Oxford... obviously cool as all hellKids are animals. 'Juice!' eighteen-month-old Henry yells from his car seat as I buckle him in. 'Juice! JUICE! JUICE!' And he happily hands me a piece of snot, like it's a payment for all the things I've given him. They grow up so fast, people say. Not because children actually grow up fast, but because we mentally block out most of this shit show."The chapters vary from starting a play in grade school to taking her kids to Disneyland. Naturally, the Disneyland chapter was my top favourite. I despise amusement parks, and Disney, being the busiest, most expensive one of the lot, is my arch enemy. Just thinking about the long lines, beating sun, $9 bottles of water, and grown adults in full animal suits makes my throat start to close up. I may actually be allergic to Disneyland. Anyways... Oxford writes about Disneyland the same way I think about it. She knew it was a childhood rite of passage, but she went basically against her will, and trying to keep 3 children and a husband happy, fed, and hydrated was exhausting for her. I laughed out loud throughout the entire chapter. I also loved the chapter where she took her teenage savings and flew to Los Angeles to try and become Leonardo DiCaprio's girlfriend before he got super famous.On Oprah, this woman said she was so upset because her husband called her a bitch a year into their relationship. I was like, it took a whole year??"Some of the chapters about her childhood were a bit dull but it is what it is. I don't love reading about kids, I don't love reading from the perspective of kids, so naturally I don't love the chapters from her childhood.Oxford with her kids (Henry, Bea and Salinger from left to right)I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys these types of funny memoirs like I do. While I really enjoyed it, I am confident I'll like her most recent book, titled When You Find Out the World is Against You, even more. I think there will be more content related to her modern life, living in California, and her family (the stuff I love) and less of her childhood and early career (the stuff I don't love). It just came out last year and it's definitely going on my birthday list. Oxford is also inspiring in that she's from a small town in Canada and has made it big on wit alone. Meghan and I pray for a similar success story everyday, but don't necessarily have the talent or the drive.Manhattan Beach Book Club: Week 1 Our fifth book club! Manhattan Beach was the book I nominated for our March Book Club so don't kill me if you aren't into it. I'll explain why I chose this book: I work in recruitment for the university here in New Brunswick and we do A LOT of travelling - long hours driving and hanging out in hote rooms. In late November I was away for a week with a bunch of other recruiters from the Atlantic provinces. I got talking about books with a woman named Trudy and she told me she just finished the audiobook of Manhattan Beach and really liked it. All she really told me about the plot was that the main female character is one of the first women to dive for the Second World War effort. I was sold at diving. I have always been attracted to books where I will learn a lot about one activity. And I'm literally just one bad breakup away from picking up diving as a hobby, so... When I went to London, Ontario, to visit Meg after the holidays I also travelled with my boyfriend Ben (London is coincidentally his hometown), and when I visited his parents I was happy to see that his mom Laurie was also reading this book. I know his mom is a big reader so I felt like this was good confirmation that Manhattan Beach would be an interesting read.ANWAYS, I will say I've enjoyed the first 50 pages.I already feel like it has a bit of a We Are Not Ourselves vibe, but probably just because it seems like it is going to be a family drama, and the narration is switching between more than one character. I was mildly horrified that the opening quotation is from Moby Dick (our god-awful first book club), but that I have been really digging the constant acknowledgment of the ocean:"Anna watched the sea. There was a feeling she had, standing at its edge: an electric mix of attraction and dread. What would be exposed if all that water should suddenly vanish? A landscape of lost objects: sunken ships, hidden treasure, gold and gem and the charm bracelet that had fallen from her wrist into a storm drain. Dead bodies, her father always added with a laugh. To him, the ocean was a wasteland." I can't help but wonder if this is a bit of a foreshadow into the role the ocean will play in this book... I mean we already know gangsters must be involved somehow, as they reference loan sharks near the end of our first reading section ... but I guess we'll just have to read on.First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung The only good thing about not drinking anymore is that you remember every book your drunk friends recommend you. So let's start this review off with a shoutout to Andre, who gushed about how great Loung Ung's memoir was at my birthday party! Thanks Andre!!This book is written VERY directly. Ung tells her story from start to finish and doesn't rely on any narrative flares. What I really liked about this book was that you have a clear understanding of what happened in Cambodia and how the country lost 1/4th of their population under the Khmer Rouge.First They Kill My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers is a quick read. Ung starts by introducing her large family (her mother, father, and five siblings ranging from toddlers to teenagers) and describing their upper-middle-class life in Cambodia's capital city. Soon Khmer Rouge soldiers enter the city and tell everyone they have to leave, that the city is going to be bombed by the Americans. It only takes a few days for Ung to realize that her family will never get to go back home.From here everything gets worse and worse as you read along. Her family is forced to hide their identity and they get placed in a work camp. They work long hours in the brutal heat and end each day with scarcely any food. The Khmer Rouge claim to be communists but it is clear this is not the case. Ung does a great job of explaining this very simply and she details the hierarchy of Cambodians the Khmer Rouge have put in place.Loung UngWhen night comes, the gods again taunt us with a radiant sunset. 'Nothing should be this beautiful,' I quietly say to Chou. 'The gods are playing tricks on us. How could they be so cruel and still make the sky so lovely?' My words tug at my heart. It is unfair of the gods to show us beauty when I am in so much pain and anguish. 'I want to destroy all the beautiful things.'I had mixed feelings about this approach. On the one hand I thought it was incredibly useful because you get a very basic understanding of the politics and nature of this genocide. The only negative was just that I would have loved to have heard this story from the perspective of one of her older siblings - like someone in their early twenties. However her age makes the story all the more horrifying / depressing because you are forced to read about a six year old enduring starvation, abuse, and the death of those closest to her.An example of why I did enjoy Ung writing from her younger self's perspective was that you get this really clear picture of how things changed so quickly for everyone. One of my favourite examples of this was early on when they are being forced out of the city. Once the Khmer soldiers take Ung's family's truck they are forced to carry their small amount of belongings with them on foot. The large group sleeps outside after long, long days of walking in stifling heat. Ung tells her mother she needs to use the washroom but there is no toilet paper. Her mother passes her some dollar bills and tells her to use them as toilet paper, that money is no good anymore, which shocks six-year-old Ung.a scene from First They Killed my Father on NetflixAt five years old, I am beginning to know what loneliness feels like, silent and alone and suspecting that everyone wants to hurt me."One of the other themes within this book that really killed me was the elasticity of children. That how after losing you sisters, her mother and her father, Ung was still able to survive and make a happy life for herself. It reminded me a lot of the movie Room with Brie Larson ... where Larson's son is able to adapt to life outside of captivity and be happy, whereas his mother can't seem to get past what happened to her. I would be very curious to hear from Ung's older siblings that survived, and how they dealt with / recovered from these events. I couldn't help but wonder that while Ung has a very strong memory for everything that happened to her, if her age didn't help protect her from succumbing to these horrors later in life.Angeline Jolie working with Sreymoch Sareum who plays Loung Ung in the film adaptationThe other thing I found super fascinating was how Ung's experience compared to her slightly older sister Chou. Ung constantly brings up how different the two were. Ung was a very tough child and she harboured a lot of anger and resentment to those who treated her so horribly. Her sister Chou was not like this at all ... Ung constantly questioned how she could be so meek and mild and survive the cruelty of the Khmer Rogue. But what's interesting is that they both survive! I would love to read an expert's opinion about how these VERY different personality styles survive in these circumstances.The other thing that killed me was how horribly those being persecuted treated each other. I remember feeling so sad for Ung once she has to abandon her mother and move to a children's work camp. But I remember also thinking maybe she will find some kindness or camaraderie with those her own age. This never happens ... despite everyone enduring a similar experience, no one treats anyone with much kindness.I live with forty others, but I am so alone in this world. There is no camaraderie among the children, no blossoming friendships, no bonding together under hardship. We live against each other, spying on one another for Pol Pot, hoping to win favors from Met Bong."As soon as I finished the book I watched Angelina Jolie's Netflix adaptation of Ung's book. The two wrote the screenplay together, but Jolie (whose first adopted son is from Cambodia) directed. I found the movie to be about as good as the book. It wasn't about narrative style or filmmaking, it was just about telling this story through Ung's eyes, which isn't something I can complain about.The movie looks very beautiful, with a lot of great aerial shots. And I will admit that while I didn't cry reading the book I did cry twice watching the movie. I think this is only because when watching the movie you are forced to actually stare at a adorable six-year-old girl going through the worst experience ever, so it is impossible not to cry for her. You also see actual scenes of family members having to do unthinkable things, and you see their actual reactions (not just a description).My only complaint about the movie is that they pretty much blow past the final stages of Ung's experience. For instance they don't show you how horrible it was for Ung and her siblings after the Khmer Rogue fell. Or how Ung was almost raped by a "good" solider. But I understand that the movie was already almost 2.5 hours and they couldn't include everything.I would suggest this book to anyone based on their interest in learning about Cambodia's history. My friend Andre spent time travelling in Cambodia with his girlfriend Marnie and I can see how having read this book would have really added to the experience.The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood If you read my review of The Handmaid's Tale, you'll know all about my ongoing love-hate relationship with Margaret Atwood. Nevertheless, I can't resist a good piece of fiction and when I saw this on the $10 table at Indigo a few months ago I put my tail between my legs and went ahead with it. While this isn't a terrible book, it's certainly not her best work by a long shot. This would likely be bottom of the list of Atwood recommendations from me. I found it to be a bit childish, I hated both the narrators, and I think the feminist agenda was a lost (in my opinion).The plot begins after some sort of large collapse in the economy. Narrators Stan and Charmaine (the novel switches between them) are a married couple who have lost their jobs, lost their house, and are living in their car while Charmaine fights for shifts as a waitress and Stan fights off thugs who want to rob them. They hear about a new community that's recruiting residents called Consilience for a new 'project' they're trying. Basically the town is completely contained, when you move in they give you a house and a job in the town and in return you alternate months in a prison called Positron, and another couple will live in your house and do your jobs. They have a recruitment weekend where they put you up in a nice hotel and woo you (it had a lot of Downsizing or The Lobster vibes) and then you can sign up if you'd like but your commitment is for life, there is no changing your mind.The catch here is everyone 'trying out' Consilience for the weekend has basically been living in poverty, so they sign up without even considering the repercussions. Charmaine, being the brat she is, begs Stan to sign the papers upon seeing a clean bath towel. They move in and begin their new lives, Stan manages the chicken farm and Charmaine is a "medical administrator". You soon learn that medical administrators essentially put disobeying humans who weren't a 'good fit' for Consilience to sleep.Margaret Atwood, no new hairdos.Eventually, Charmaine has an affair with her male alternate (the man who lives in her house when she's at a prison) and Stan is caught monitoring her scooter after being suspicious. The HR woman who catches him blackmails him and stages a coup to smuggle Stan out of Consilience so he can leak information to the media. To do this, they have to fake his death, meaning Charmaine has to 'put him to sleep'. It's the most fucked up scenario because they don't tell Charmaine it's fake- they want her grief to seem realistic to the other executives at Consilience. There's this awkward section where Stan is positive Charmaine could never kill him, but, being the selfish bitch she is, she does. This obviously takes a large toll on their relationship when Stan is on the outside and reveals to Charmaine that he's still alive.One of the biggest themes throughout this book is sex. Everyone is obsessed with sex, how to improve their sex lives, how sex will make their lives better, etc. When sex is taken off the table, the men in the book will do anything to get some action. This passage below describes one of the prison inmates threatening Stan if he doesn't let him fuck a chicken:'You want to what?' he asked the first time. The guy had spelled it out: he wanted to have sex with a chicken. It didn't hurt the chicken, he'd done it before, it was normal, lots of guys did it, and chickens didn't talk. A guy got very horny in here with no outlets, right? And it was no fair that Stan was keeping the chickens all to himself, and if he didn't unlock that wire cage right now, his life might not be so pleasant, supposing he was allowed to keep it, because he might end up as a chicken substitute like the fag he probably was. Stan got the message. He allowed the chicken assignations. What did that make him? A chicken pimp. Better that than dead."Eventually it becomes clear that Consilience has been developing new prototypes for sex robots, based on real people. The owner of Consilience, obsessed with Charmaine, makes a sex robot of her but is disappointed that it isn't lifelike. He instead creates a surgical procedure to make someone obsessed with you. As the plot comes to fruition, it's clear the owner plans to give Charmaine this surgical procedure- which is compared to a duckling imprinting on it's mother. Charmaine would forget all about Stan and only want to have sex with him. ***Spoiler Alert*** Stan comes to the rescue (despite his wife actually 'killing him') and drugs the Consilience owner so Charmaine can imprint on himself instead.There's an interesting section after the surgery where Stan reflects on his new sex life with Charmaine after the procedure. He mentions how it's the best he's ever had now, but even that can become routine. It speaks a lot to human nature I think, we'll never, ever feel truly satisfied. Even our wildest dreams will eventually bore us.On the other hand, his sex life has never been so good. Partly it's whatever adjustment they made inside Charmaine's brain, but also it has to be his repertoire of verbal turn-ons... all he needs to do is haul out one of those riffs- Turn over, kneel down, tell me how shameless you are- and Charmaine is toffee in his hands... True, the routine has become slightly predictable, but it would be surly to complain. Like complaining that the food's too delicious. What kind of a complaint is that?"In the end, once Stan switches places with Ed (the owner) so Charmaine imprints on him instead. They go on to live life happily ever after until a year later when HR at Consilience comes to Charmaine to reveal a 'secret':'You can choose,' says Jocelyn. 'To hear it or not. If you hear it, you'll be more free but less secure. If you don't hear it, you'll be more secure, but less free.' She crosses her arms, waits. ...'Ok, tell me,' [Charmaine] says.'Simply this,' says Jocelyn. 'You never had that operation. That brain adjustment.''That can't be true,' says Charmaine flatly. 'It can't be true! There's been such a difference!''The human mind is infinitely suggestible,' says Jocelyn.'But. But now I love Stan so much,' says Charmaine. 'I have to love him, because of that thing they did! It's like an ant, or something. It's like a baby duck! That's what they said!'Atwood definitely had a feminist agenda in writing this. There are a lot of discussions between the male characters of replacing all the women with robots, or even the surgery to 'imprint them' on men and take away their free will. However, I felt there was so much going on with the plot that it was hard to even get to that mentally. In The Handmaid's Tale, female oppression smacks you in the face and stays there, whereas with this novel it kind of gets lost. Of course, this could just be saying something about me as a human- that I don't recognize obvious misogyny where it exists- but I think it did get buried in the ever-changing plot line.As I mentioned earlier, Charmaine and Stan were both unbearable and terrible people and I hated them as narrators. Charmaine actually KILLS her husband (or so she thinks) just because she's told and immediately is hoping they may put her in one of those singles condos in Consilience. Stan, on the other hand, is just a sex-crazed chump. I felt like they were both babies and as a result the whole book came across as a bit 'young adult' as a genre. (Imagine it was a YA novel and I totally missed that.) If you want to read some dystopian fiction I know Meghan and I would both be happy to recommend some better alternatives than this.Author Spotlight: Jonathan Safran Foer    I feel like there are a lot of strong opposing opinions about Jonathan Safran Foer. I fall sort of in the middle. I love, love, love his books, but he drives me INSANE as a human being. Foer is a very talented writer and became pretty famous pretty quickly, but there is such an air of pretentiousness that surrounds him, and it's hard to ignore.Foer is extremely well educated and from a pretty well-off family. He went straight to Princeton after graduating high school and worked very closely with JOYCE CAROL OATES. Imagine being in your early twenties and having fucking Joyce Carol Oates telling you you're a very talented writer and should consider it as a career??? My head would explode.ANYWAYS, the most damning evidence that makes me cringe is his relationship with Natalie Portman ... it makes me ALMOST dislike Portman. The two of them had been emailing each other for years, and for some unknown reason decided to let the New York Times publish their correspondence. This is easily the most douchey, "auteur"-correspondence where they spend most of their emails patting each other on the back ... it is painful to read.But a lot of people don't like the authors they love to read, and I am no different. So let's start this author spotlight like we do with most: reviewing each book in chronological order. (I should note that I am excluding Tree of Codes because it isn't really a book).1. Everything Is Illuminated (2002)Foer was only 25 when this book was published which I think is a huge accomplishment. I read this book a LONG time ago, but the main things I remember are the heartbreaking fictionalized scenes of the destruction of a Jewish community in Poland before the Holocaust. This is always Foer's strong suit. In university he wrote his thesis about his maternal grandmother - a Holocaust survivor. He is very in touch with his Jewish heritage and writes really beautifully about it.She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum."I should also say this book is very weird, and it's a good example of what's to come in Foer's career. His narrative structures are usually complicated, with multiple narratives and storylines, as well as strange literary devices. Often times he'll rely on manipulations of the actual text itself ... jumbling sentences together until it is essentially unreadable.Again, I read this book a long time ago (and also watched the movie adaptation with Elijah Wood) and can't really remember too much about it. I just remember thinking it wasn't really for me, and that I probably would never read it again. BUT I really do think that I read this book too young and that if I was to go back through it I would actually really enjoy it.One day you will do things for me that you hate. That is what it means to be family."You can read Meg's full review of the book here.2. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005)On the other hand, I feel like I read this book at the perfect age. I was still in high school when I picked it up and I remember being really moved by it. I always said the takeaway message is simple: tell people how you feel about them because you never know when you'll lose that opportunity.It's been so many years since I've read this and I worry that if I were to revisit it I would find the whole 9/11 plotline to be disgusting.Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has two storylines: one from the perspective of a young New York boy whose father dies in 9/11, and the second from an older man living in New York who thinks back to his life in Dresden and the death of the love of his life. The link between these two characters is that the old man marries the young boy's grandmother.Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on. I hope you never think about anything as much as I think about you."The stuff about Dresden and the unhappy marriage back in New York were beautifully written, and painful to read. Again, this storyline fits with Foer's background in the history of the Holocaust, and he uses his knowledge to paint a strong portrait of the Second World War.What did thinking ever do for me, to what great place did thinking ever bring me? I think and think and think. I've thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it."There are even more weird literary devices used in this book than in his first one.3. Eating Animals (2009)This is my second favourite Foer book, but is definitely one of the top ten books I think about the most. I remember I read this in like three days, and then spent the next two weeks telling anyone who would listen to me about it. I talked to Meg and Chelsea in an ice cream shop about it, I told Chelsea about it while on the elliptical machine, and I Skyped my parents for an hour and a half about it. And yet, I am still a meat-eating asshole.We are the ones of whom it will be fairly asked, 'What did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?'I love the beginning of this book. Foer starts off describing how important food is to us as individual people but also as a family unit. He talks about how his grandmother was obsessed and meticulous about food because of how she lived without it while hiding during the Second World War. She would pick up her grandchildren and tell them they were too thin, that they needed to eat more. She would also make use of every single scrap of food on her plate or in her pantry.From there he tackles a bunch of different subject matter in relation to conscious eating: terminology, factory farming, harvesting mammals vs. fish vs. shellfish, whether to be vegetarian or vegan, dairy products, environmental impact, etc. I really, really liked how the book was organized and how the information was presented.Nothing - not a conversation, not a handshake or even a hug - establishes friendship so forcefully as eating together. Maybe it's cultural. Maybe it's an echo from the communal feasts of our ancestors."The heart of this book is Foer discussing his on-again-off-again relationship with veganism, and his determination to commit to being vegan. It is also about his, and his then-wife (and fellow author) Nicole Krauss', decision to raise their son vegan.You can read Meg's (an actual vegetarian) full review here.4. Here I Am (2016)This was my favourite read of 2017, and easily my favourite Foer book. As I said in my full review (which you can find here), this is Foer's most mature book - both in style and in subject matter.Here I Am is a family drama that centres on the end of the two main characters' marriage. This is particularly heart-wrenching because Foer and Krauss divorced in 2014, and it always makes me sad to see two writers separate.Because I reviewed this book so recently I'll leave it at this, my favourite passage:'In sickness and in sickness,' Jacob's mother had said at his wedding. 'That is what I wish for you. Don't seek or expect miracles. There are no miracles. Not anymore. And there are no cures for the hurt that hurts most. There is only the medicine of believing each other's pain, and being present for it."If you're an adventurous reader I would recommend any of Foer's books, but if you are more in to traditional writing, then I would suggest you lean towards Eating Animals or Here I Am. What's better than getting an author's work of non-fiction AND fiction? And if you are a lover of all Jonathan's and also enjoy picking up a Franzen novel, then check out our friend and collaborator Laura Frey's blog Reading in Bed, where she wrote a post comparing the two Jonathans!Manhattan Beach Book Club: Week 3 One of the sections that struck me the most in these chapters was Anna's first sexual encounter. Egan describes how she would hide in a cellar with a neighbourhood boy and they would start to fool around. These sort of scenes seem to be common in works of fiction and they always make me feel sort of depressed.. The lack of communication around sex is upsetting. I mean she brought a RULER with her so she would have something to bite down on, how fucked up is that?I did love the section where they are informed of all the possible side effects of deep sea diving, like the squeeze and the bends. This is the sort of information that simultaneously repulses me and fascinates me. Like I hate to read about blood coming out of eyes and ears, but also can't stop researching it. I also think Meg and I just love an opportunity to "worry" about something ... for example Meg took some pottery classes and started spending time in their workspace making plates, bowls, etc. and I got a phone call literally the second time she had ever stepped foot in the studio telling me she believes she has "potters' lung." So I will say I have been enjoying the book for the factual information about deep-sea diving and welding.Then there is the constant sexism and condescension that goes on on the wharf ... I think Egan tackles this in a really great way, where it is really frustrating but also somewhat humourous. Here was the passage I thought represented both sentiments:He took a long, patient breath. 'It is enormously taxing for the human body to perform underwater,' he said. 'I understand that may be hard to believe; you see the pretty waves, the nice sea foam. You like to swim. But it isn't like that underneath. Water is heavy. The pressure of that weight is something ferocious. We've no idea how the female body would react.'What I found so funny about this paragraph is that he patronizes her so hard saying "yes I know you think the sea is pretty but..", and yet we already know this is far from the case. Anna has so much respect for the sea, but she also has a deep fear of it (which I quoted in Week 1) and we know she would never underestimate the danger of the ocean.I also thought it was hilarious that the instructor says he doesn't know how the FEMALE body would react ... as if a female body's anatomy and inner mechanisms are completely different from a man's. I would imagine the bends are the bends, man or woman.Manhattan Beach Book Club: Week 4 I know that Lydia dies in this section, but honestly the saddest part for me was Dexter describing his relationship with his dad. I love father-son relationships so much, and estranged ones crush me. It's why I love the movie The Judge so much.He's an old man, Dexter thought, recalling his boss's labored breathing on the stoop this afternoon. He won't live forever. And felt again the sting of his father's slap, the wet ache in his eyes."I also found the parts about Anna staying back in the city to be very interesting. It never even occurred to me how frowned upon it would be for an unmarried woman to live alone... but then, it's totally fine for her to drive around and go to the beach with a married man? So I am really just learning what's appropriate and what's not.It's weird, besides the jokes about marrying a returning officer, Anna never expresses a romantic interest in anyone (so far). She seems solely interested in furthering her career, and never seems upset or lonely that she doesn't have male companionship. I like how this subtle feminism is coming into play, because they don't make a big deal about her independence either. It's not like she is running around screaming how she doesn't want to get married like in an Austen novel. It's honestly kind of refreshing.Summer Sisters by Judy Blume I'm throwing it back here to an oldie but a goodie because book club has interrupted my current reading schedule and I honestly don't have anything new in my wheelhouse. It's a good opportunity to talk about one of my favourite books. Even though I haven't read this in a while, I've read it so many times I feel like I could recite the chapters from memory.I can't tell you when I first read this, I want to say I was ten. I stole it off my mom's bookshelf. I still have her old, torn up copy which she insists to this day I need to give back but, sorry mom, it's mine forever. I feel, in some weird way, that the way the two main characters grow up through the novel, I sort of grew up reading this book. I read it at least once per year from ten to twenty and it's been a while, but I feel like maybe I don't need it the way I used to? Every time I read it I felt connected to some new relationship in the story and I think I've finally outgrown the characters. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to any female of any age. It's an amazing story.She wondered if all the firsts in her life would go by so quickly, and be forgotten just as quickly.” The book really centers around two main characters, Caitlin and Victoria, who are best friends and vacation with Caitlin's dad and his new family on Martha's Vineyard each summer. Victoria, who comes from a less than wealthy family, is throughout the book entranced by Caitlin's lifestyle. She feels privileged just to be able to take these vacations with Caitlin, and it's this feeling of privilege that directs the peaks and valleys of their friendship.The story is told from many different perspectives, including both Caitlin and Victoria but also their siblings, their step-siblings, their parents, their step-parents, their boyfriends, etc. There are so many types of relationships within the book which is why you can read it over so many times. There really is something for everyone.Judy BlumeI would call it a coming of age story for Caitlin and Victoria. They explore their bodies together, go through family drama, experience sex and love, fight, make-up, get pregnant, get new jobs, go to private schools, etc. There are major themes of class throughout- Victoria's family feels a bit of hostility towards Caitlin's for showing their daughter a life they could never give her. When I was younger I thought the book was about friendship, but now that I'm older I think it's more centered around parenting (which I love to read about). Each parent and step-parent in the story is unique, each equally good and bad in their own ways, and it makes you think a lot about the style of parent you were raised with and feel very fortunate regardless of your circumstances. Lamb (Caitlin's dad) is naturally my favourite, being the sweet, eager to please dad of daughters that I grew up with.You weren’t always born to the right parents. And parents didn’t necessarily get the kids they were meant to raise.” Victoria is my favourite character. She's easily one of my favourite characters from any book. I also included her and one of her boyfriends Bru in my favourite fictional couples list we wrote up for Valentine's day. Victoria was always nervous how to act around people and felt like she didn't deserve the things that came her way. This makes her a very careful, modest, and critical thinking character (exactly the kind I love to read). Caitlin was more of a Bridget from The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants type of character... flirty and using her charm to get her way always... this is not a character I've ever been particularly into but I do love the way her and Victoria interact.I couldn't even begin to pick a favourite part of the book, but this is one of my favourite lines and something I think about a lot:A person can have a happy and fulfilling life without children.” Meghan and I share a love of stories that are told over a long period of time. I think it makes them mean more, but it also makes them sad. I think a lot about how I can be so close to certain people for a particular period of my life and then see them so infrequently, if at all, after that period (working at a summer camp, playing on a team, taking a vacation together, etc.). It's one of the most sad things in the world to me. It's why I loved this book, but also why I find it very sad. In a weird way the book also makes me think about Meghan. We see each other less and less as we settle into our 'adult lives' but it couldn't seem to matter less. I could see her five years from now and I'd still grab a bag of Oreos and settle onto her sister's couch to binge watch something terrible then fly home.We are friends for life. When we're together the years fall away. isn't that what matters? To have someone who can remember with you? To have someone who remembers how far you've come?"I think this is such an important read. Blume has a massive repertoire, mostly for young adults but some for adults too. This, however, is definitely the highlight of her work. It explores female friendships, and how the complexities of female lives and how their relationships with others can affect those friendships. I used to wish they'd adapt it into a movie, but now I don't. I think it would ruin it. For a loosely similar idea, I can watch Very Good Girls, which has my ideal casting for a film adaptation of Summer Sisters anyways.I'll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara This book has a lot of pieces that I look for when choosing what to read next. As you know, we are big fans of true crime on this blog, but I think more than that I'm interested in anything an author pursues obsessively. And this fascination is reflected in Michelle McNamara's book I'll Be Gone In the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. McNamara penned the name Golden State Killer for the ruthless, serial murderer who tormented Sacramento in the 1970s, but her digging came to an abrupt stop when she unexpectedly died in her sleep two years ago. Some other things I got excited about were the introduction by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn (review here) who writes violent fiction, and the afterward by actor/comedian Patton Oswalt (McNamara's husband). The afterword was particularly eye catching in the wake of her death.I want to address the death of the author before starting the actual review:McNamara acknowledges who her husband is about ~30 pages into the book. You hear about her attending premiere parties and going to screenings of his work. What's upsetting about these stories is how she is (obviously) unaware of her own imminent death, but that in contrast, this is something we are hyper-aware of, and it makes everything that much more sad.For example, McNamara talks about her daughter Matilda (~7 years old at the time of her mother's death) and how she is a troubled sleeper. Matilda would often tell her mother before going to sleep "I don't want to have a dream." This would seem normal, maybe even cute, if we didn't know what happens to Michelle, but we do know... and this makes it heartbreaking:'You are not going to have a dream,' I tell her, with crisp, confident enunciation. Her body releases its tension, and she goes to sleep. I leave the room, hoping that what I promised but have no control over will be true. That's what we do. All of us. We make well-intentioned promises of protection we can't always keep. I'll look out for you."This passage is obviously sad because this little girl's mom is no longer around to reassure her of these things. But it also really makes you want to scream at everyone who criticizes Oswalt for remarrying so soon after McNamara's death. I felt sad when I read this, but then remembered Matilda has a mother figure back in her life, and that's a relief.The last thing I'll say before we get into the actual details of the book is that I really enjoyed Oswalt's afterword. He excused himself from gushing too much by saying "it's impossible to speak of her without hyperbole," which is fitting considering what happened. Anyways, it's a sad, present-day story that kind of hangs over the 352-paged horrific, true crime one.Patton Oswalt and Michelle McNamara at a movie premiereAaaaaaand now for the book:As far as true crime goes, this was a good read. I like that you actually get a little bit of back story on the author and why they've become so obsessed with this one case/killer:Violent men unknown to me have occupied my mind all my adult life - long before 2007, when I first learned of the offender I would eventually dub the Golden State Killer. The part of the brain reserved for sports statistics or dessert recipes or Shakespeare quotes is, for me, a gallery of harrowing aftermaths; a boy's BMX bike, its wheels still spinning, abandoned in a ditch along a country road; a tuft of microscopic green fibers collected from the small of a dead girl's back."You find out that there was a violent homicide in McNamara's childhood neighbourhood in Chicago. A young girl was brutally murdered and left in an alley not far from where McNamara and her friends would play. The crime was never solved and it stayed in McNamara's mind ever since.The thing is, once you learn about how horrific the rapes and murders, and more importantly, how many there were, the Golden State Killer is difficult to get out of your own head. It's been almost three weeks since I finished this book and still every time I get up to go to the bathroom at night or turn a dark corner I can't help but think of this masked man waiting for me.And then there is the real cause behind most obsessions: the unknown. The Golden State Killer is still a free man. No one knows who he is. He committed close to 50 rapes, and murdered 12. He's made phone calls to his victims decades later, saying things like "remember when we played?" I mean the book was named after a creepy threat he uttered to one of his tied up victims: He pointed a knife at her and issued a chilling warning: 'Make one move and you'll be silent forever and I'll be gone in the dark.'He's a fucking psychopath and he's still out there. Nothing chills us / excites us quite like an unsolved crime.Drawings of what the Golden State Killer potentially looks likeAgain, I feel like I am more interested in the obsessiveness that surrounds the killer than I am in the actual crimes/deaths. The entire time I read this book I couldn't help but think about David Fincher's Zodiac, one of the best serial killer dramas out there. The Washington Post did a 20-year-anniversary write up about the movie and said this: Zodiac is a movie about how uncertainty and institutional failure will drive you mad, and as a result, it's more relevant than ever." The same rings true for the Golden State Killer.You learn a lot of technical language in this book, and this is something that always sparks attention from me or Meg. We love feeling like experts on stuff, so when I get to learn what "overkill" means to a cop, I'm definitely interested:'Overkill' is a popular but sometimes misused term in criminal investigations and crime stories. Even seasoned homicide investigators occasionally misinterpret an offender's behaviour when he uses a great deal of force. It's common to assume that a murder involving overkill means there was a relationship between offender and victim, an unleashing of pent-up rage borne of familiarity. 'This was personal,' goes the cliche."It's also just the incredible amout of detail McNamara has collected through police reports, interviews, and revisiting crime scenes 40 years later. You find out how he often stalked his victims for weeks, plotting out when they would be home and what was the best point of entry. One of the things that will definitely stick in my mind for years was how he would leave his victims tied up, and when they believed he was gone they would finally go limp and start trying to untie themselves... then suddenly out of no where they would feel a knife pressed against their backs or heavy breathing by their ear, letting them know he hasn't left yet.I mean obviously this is terrifying on its own. But what makes it stick in my mind is McNamara letting you know that this was a very specific tactic. That he would do this so that the victims would wait even longer before trying to free themselves, giving him more time to escape.Then there is all the detail about how terrified Sacramento was. How so many people were raped or killed inside their own homes. That even the presence of their significant other wouldn't stop him. That no lock could keep him out. McNamara talks a lot about neighbour relations, and while she doesn't mention it by name, you can't help but think more and more about the bystander effect - that even if you see something and know it's not right, you often assume someone else will deal with it:It was a power play, a signal of ubiquity. I am both nowhere and everywhere. You may not think you have something in common with your neighbour, but you do: me. I'm the barely spotted presence, the dark-haired, blond-haired, stocky, slight, seen from the back, glimpsed in half-light thread that will continue to connect you even as you fail to look out for each other."Then of course there is the shit I'm REALLY interested in. Like obsessions that lead to ruined marriages, careers, and friendships. She spends a lot of time with an investigator who was on the case, and who still knows every single detail imaginable. These passages are near the end of the book and were some of my favourite. Their shared obsession with the Golden State Killer is interesting to hear about, and McNamara is constantly shooting him ideas about the case.The Golden State Killer haunts their dreams. He's ruined their marriages. He's burrowed so deeply inside their heads that they want to, or have to, believe that if they locked eyes with him, they'd know. 'It's kind of like a bloodhound thing,' a detective said to me. 'I believe if I were at a mall and he passed by me, I'd know."I was going away for a week for work and would be sleeping alone in a hotel room in Nova Scotia. I remember racing through this book so I wouldn't have to read it alone in bed, a recipe for a nightmare. But still, I can't stop thinking about it.The only solace I get is from my friend Eric who once told me that there's no point worrying about serial killers. "If a serial killer wants you, he's going to get you. There's nothing you can do about that," he said. So in a way, this comforts me ... it feels out of my hands. Hopefully this will give you some peace of mine too after reading I'll Be Gone in the Dark.The Liar's Club by Mary Karr I heard about Mary Karr because of her connection to David Foster Wallace.. something I'm sure would make her eyes roll back into her head. I was reading Chuck Klosterman's But What If We're Wrong: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past (full review here) and he briefly mentioned DFW's obsession with Karr. It was in that book that Klosterman also mentioned her memoir The Liar's Club and I decided to add it to my list of books to buy.I remember having to order it with a couple of other books last Christmas. When the order finally came in Karr's memoir was packaged with a DFW book I ordered. I joked with my friend Michael (who was working at the time) that this was exactly what DFW would have wanted. Now I feel a little guilty about the joke after learning how pissed off it makes Karr to constantly be associated with DFW.In an interview with Lena Dunham for Lenny Letter Karr said: Sometimes people go on and on about David Foster Wallace. As though my contribution to literature is that I fucked him a couple times in the early nineties."ANYWAYS, let's get to the actual book.The Liar's Club is a 352-paged account of Karr's, and her older sister Leica's (pronounced Lisa), horrible childhood in southeast Texas. The book is named after her father's "club" - a group of men who would meet up at random bars, get wasted, and listen to Karr's father tell stories. Karr would tag along on these meet ups.The book starts in a depressed industrial town in Texas when Karr is ~five years old. We learn about their less-than-parental father and their alcoholic mother. From there we follow them to the mountains in Colorado then back to southeast Texas. The book predominately focuses on Karr's early childhood, but we get a little bit from her post-high school period near the end.Mary KarrI should let you know up front that it's going to be hard for me to not constantly compare this to Jeanette Walls' The Glass Castle (full review here). I read the two books so close together that it is impossible not to be comparing which works better as a memoir of  a rotten childhood.I'll say right now that I think Karr's memoir is a lot better. The story is similar in that the parents are super neglectful, but Karr is the better writer. I know this will sound super douchey, but Karr just seems to write in a more "literary" fashion. What I mean is that I found it really hard to find any passages from Walls' memoir that would hold up for me overtime... but Karr had some great lines that I'll definitely look back on.[...] some windowshade in the experience flew up to show me what suffering really is. It's not the old man with arthritic fingers you glimpse trying to open one of those little black, click-open purses for soda change at the Coke machine. It isn't even the toddler you once passed in a yard behind a chain-linked fence, tethered to a clothesline like a dog in midday heat. Those are only rumours of suffering. Real suffering has a face and a smell. It lasts in its most intense form no matter what you drape over it. And it knows your name."It is also pretty interesting to me to see how much of a draw there is for books about people's shitty childhoods. I have been wondering why that seems to be the case, but I feel like the answer is pretty obvious. People want to have shared experiences, even when they are horrible ones. And I can understand why a lot of psychologists have suggested their patients who have dealt with something similar should read The Liar's Club.I have the tenth anniversary edition of The Liar's Club and in it Karr writes a brief foreward. She talks about how many people have approached her since writing the book to tell her about their horrible childhoods. This was a really interesting little section because I had recently read an article about what happens after you write a memoir (read here), and you can see that Karr's experience has been very similar to the article's author's own experience.Silence can make somebody bigger, I've come to believe. Grief can, too. A big sad silence emanating from someone can cause you to invest that person with all manner of gravitas."This book is depressing. You have to read about injuries that could have easily been avoided had the parents just taken care of their children, about verbal abuse, and graphic scenes of sexual assault. There is a scene where Karr, at only eight years old, is forced to perform oral sex on an adult and it is VERY difficult to read. Karr is able to make you cry, feel nauseous, and furious all at once.What I really enjoyed about this book was that Karr also makes you laugh. She constantly reminds readers that while it's easy to think of her as "tough," she was actually a massive cry baby. She also constantly interjects comments she thinks her older sister would demand be in the book, like how Mary was "so damned cute" that people let her get away with things. She would also mention when her sister had no recollection of certain events and couldn't confirm Mary's memories, or that her sister was convinced Mary was remembering something wrong. This keeps the memoir based in reality, and not completely subjective.Her sister Leica is also very sharp witted. One of my favourite lines was from a scene on Karr's birthday where her mother was wasted and threw a giant casserole dish at their father. It shattered everywhere and he left immediately. Leica mutters under her breath: "Tape Ten, Reel One Thousand: Happy Goddamn Birthday."I think about the story of Job I heard in Carol Sharp's Sunday school. How he sort of learned to lean into feeling hurt at the end, the way you might lean into a heavy wind that almost winds up supporting you after a while."I loved the relationship between Karr and her sister Leica. I am the older sister in my family and even though we had a perfect childhood with amazing parents, there are a lot of scenes that are so universal to sisterhood. Karr is constantly trying to sleep next to her older sister or hold her hand, all of which Leica finds incredibly annoying. My sister used to sleep on the ground by my bed because I wouldn't let her in it. She always claims I would eventually cave, but I don't remember it that way.My favourite scene is when their mother is drunk and waving a revolver at a new boyfriend... Lecia tells Karr to run to the neighbours house and essentially takes her place in a very dangerous situation. Karr talks about how at that very moment she imagined a bullet flying and taking the life of either her mother or sister, and who she would prefer to survive:I would like to claim that I worried the bone of this choice a long time, but I did not. In an eyeblink's time, I killed the very sister who'd taken my place in the bullet's path. No sooner did the choice present itself than I chose."I love this passage because it is so, so, so true. No matter how parents behave, their children are drawn to them, and Karr making this decision in her early childhood proves this.So to wrap things up, I definitely found The Liar's Club to be a lot better than most childhood memoirs. Karr has such a great sense of humour but is also a very talented writer. I'm so glad I read the Lenny Letter interview because I found out that Karr is an amazing poet. So while I don't think I would read the other two memoirs Karr wrote, I would definitely be interested in picking up a book of her poetry.The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert Elizabeth Gilbert writes the kind of non-fiction that I dream of writing. Her books are always well-researched and full of interviews, but they also draw on her personal experience. She always strikes a perfect balance between being subjective and objective. Her profile of Eustance Conway in The Last American Man is no different, and I'd recommend this book to literally anyone.I picked this book up a few years ago at a used bookstore and had been meaning to read it forever. It was exactly the sort of topic I love: a semi-troubled person decides to walk off into the woods and never return.I've decided to break this review up into a few different topics in an attempt at writing something remotely organized... so here we go:1. Gilbert's ResearchI love the concept of this book and it's reflected perfectly in the title. The book is an expansion of Gilbert's GQ article profiling Eustance Conway - an outdoorsman who left home when he was 17 to live in the wild. The article is also titled "The Last American Man", and Gilbert starts the book off by defining this concept.An "American Man" is someone who is an adventurer, an explorer, a frontiersman, and a hard worker... a man so at home in the wild that nothing, not even love, can come between his relationship with the natural world:As the writer Leslie Fielder pointed out in his seminal tome Love and Death in the American Novel, we Americans have the only major culture in the known world that never held romantic love to be a scared precept. The rest of the world gets Don Juan; we get Paul Bunyan. There's no love story in Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn doesn't get the girl in the end; John Wayne never dreamed of giving up his horse for the constraints of a wife; and Davy fuckin' Crockett doesn't date."But the real issue at the heart of this book is the loss of this cultural archetype... People are drawn to Conway because they believe him to be one of the last representations of this character. As the world evolves more and more, and technology gets more and more advanced, we don't feel the same connection with nature, and we certainly don't live the same way our ancestors did. Gilbert describes this loss best:Nobody was really paying attention until the moment the wilderness was officially tamed, at which point everybody wanted it back. Within the general spasm of nostalgia that ensued there came a very specific cultural panic, rooted in the question 'What will become of our boys?'So this book is about the nostalgia for the frontier and how we relentlessly romanticize the wild, which is perfect for me because I LOVE to romanticize the wild even though I hate camping.In line with nostalgia for a more "natural" world, Gilbert spends a couple of pages talking about the idea of a utopia - a term most of us learned in high-school English class while reading Lord of the Flies.She gives a brief history of the people who strived for a utopia, and how that desire is often realized through cults or communes. There was some interesting stuff in this section, but nothing was fleshed out in too much detail. She essentially discusses why these communes worked or didn't work, and the overall message is that even though these people are trying to get away from the modern world, or at least their dissatisfaction with it, they often fail.After reading this section I definitely need to look up more information on a Tennessee commune Gilbert mentioned called The Farm. She lists a few books to read if you want more detail/history about commune life, which I appreciated.Eustance Conway2. Conway's Accomplishments It's impressive enough that Conway purchased a massive amount of land over his lifetime to build Turtle Island - a camp where he hopes to bring people looking to live a "natural" life and teach them survival skills - but he's also accomplished a hell of a lot more. Conway has set at least two world records, he's hiked the entire Appalachian trail with nothing but a gun, and he's traveled all over the world.The most detailed accomplishment was when he crossed America on horseback in only ~100 days. Gilbert's interview with Conway maps out how many horses he brought, his thought process, and the physical / emotional toll it took on him and his two travel partners.She also interviews "the world's foremost expert on equestrian travel" (amazing title) who describes how difficult the accomplishment was, and how lucky they were to even survive. What was interesting about this interview was that this "expert" was obviously pretty familiar with Conway, and he mentioned to Gilbert that he thinks we haven't even seen the surface of what Conway is capable of. It was weirdly foreboding and I need to know what he thinks Conway can manage... But he was also pretty critical of Conway in a way I found interesting:I think he's reached a plateau in his life. He's pushed himself as far as he can go using his charisma and courage, and now he needs to go on a spiritual journey. He needs to do something that is private. He's postured himself in public for so many years that he doesn't know himself. There are parts of his soul he can't begin to understand, and until he learns these things about himself, he'll never be the nomad he's meant to be."I liked the inclusion of this because it goes to show that Gilbert doesn't just sing Conway's praises the entire book. She is one of his harshest critics, and always paints a full picture of his character.The other trip he did was on horse and buggy with his then-girlfriend. It wasn't as interesting as the Atlantic-Pacific trip, but it had some good information about the toll this trip took on his personal life. Conway is so obsessed with completing these "missions" and, though he wouldn't admit it, setting records, that he lets his relationships fall apart. Halfway through the trip he wasn't even speaking with his girlfriend ... they would spend hours driving across the prairies and wouldn't say a single word to each other.This was one of my favourite ways Gilbert described one of Conway's quests:The journey itself was heroic, in other words, but the situation was unfortunately reminiscent of Ursula K. LeGuin's sharp observation that 'the backside of heroism is often rather sad; women and servants know that.'A few cottages on Turtle Island3. Fatherhood: Big Eustance vs. Little EustanceThis was definitely the saddest portion of the book. Early on Gilbert describes Conway's childhood in North Carolina... she relies on interviews with Conway himself, his family, and his childhood diary entries. Conway's parents were pretty outdoorsy growing up (his mother lived in a tent in Alaska for at least a year in her early twenties), but Gilbert quickly makes it known that regardless of this mutual love of the outdoors, Conway had a horrible relationship with his father (Esutance Conway Senior, aka Big Eustance).Conway was never physically abused as a child, but I would definitely say he endured a lot of mental abuse. His dad would call him stupid and openly encourage his other children to mock Conway... His dad was furious that Conway wasn't a math prodigy (like he was) and constantly let him know it. Conway wrote many times in his diary that he wanted to run away, to go to the woods and never come back.I was shocked at how candid his father was in Gilbert's interviews. He was pretty honest about how he treated his son and his disappointment with him. Gilbert does a really good job of describing this complicated relationship. She also points out that Conway's siblings acknowledge that he was a difficult child and that it wasn't all their father's fault. My favourite part was when she pointed out Big Eustace's desire for his son to be just like him and how he named him after him:Some interpret the custom as vanity, but I wonder whether it's vanity's opposite: insecurity. To me, it seems a touching and hopeful wish, as if the father - frightened by the importance of having created a new life, a new man, a new rival - utters a small prayer that in the naming of his baby there will be a kind of twinship between himself and the child." The saddest part is that Conway (Little Eustance) actually has A LOT in common with his father... He is very unforgiving of people and their inability to perform exactly as he wants them to. Hundreds of apprentices at Turtle Island have left him in a rage because of how they felt he treated them... and Conway has also never married (something he desperately wants) despite his dozen attempts at a relationship.Elizabeth Gilbert4. Personal ConnectionAnd finally, my favourite aspect of this book: the personal side of Gilbert's relationship to the subject. I think what makes a great non-fiction writer is the author's connection to the subject matter. I mean my favourite non-fiction book is In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick... a man who literally lives in Nantucket and whose father is an English professor who raised his son on Moby Dick. So I think it's always a good idea to have some sort of relationship with the topic you are writing about.Gilbert had an in with Conway because when she was in her early twenties she met his younger brother Judson. She stayed in contact with Judson and then eventually met Conway one day while the brothers were visiting New York. Gilbert and Conway have spent a lot of time together. They speak on the phone, writer letters, and even visit in person (Gilbert has visited Turtle Island many times). It's this familiarity with each other that I think allows Conway to be so open with Gilbert... giving her access to his letters and diary entries.But what I love about her relationship with him is that she celebrates him AND criticizes him. She is constantly acknowledging how difficult it is not to romanticize Conway or project any of our ideals onto him (herself included):I too had that moment of thinking this was the first truly authentic man I'd ever met, the kind of person I'd traveled to Wyoming as a twenty-two-year old to find (indeed, to become) - a genuine soul uncontaminated by modern rust. What makes Eustance seem, on first encounter, like the last of some noble species is that there is nothing 'virtual' about his reality. This is a guy who lives, quite literally, the life that, for the rest of the country, has largely become a metaphor." Where it gets tricky is our deciding what we want Eustance Conway to be, in order to fulfill our notions of him, and then ignoring what doesn't fit into our notions of him, and then ignoring what doesn't fit into our first-impression romantic image." It's similar to Joan Didion's essay about John Wayne ("Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream") - these men represent something that is so dear to us that we refuse to let it go, to see them as they really are. Yes, Conway is this extreme environmentalist who cares so passionately about nature and believes it is his personal destiny to save our technology-dependent souls... but he is also a girlfriend's worst nightmare and a cut-throat businessman. He's a complicated figure, and Gilbert profiles him to a tee.Manhattan Beach Book Club: Week 5 One of the best revenge scenes is how flabbergasted Anna's sexist boss is when she completes the diving challenge:'One is Kerrigan, sir,' Marle shouted over the wind.Even in her exhaustion, Anna knew she would not forget the look of appalled bewilderment that blighted the lieutenant's childish face. Shaking his head, he peered at the diving benches.'No,' he said. 'No, no.' And then, 'Which one?'I should also say here that I LOVE Marle. I love how he is similar to Anna in that he hangs back from the group because he feels like an outsider (his reason being his race). He is so quiet that I want to know more about him and keep hoping a friendship will develop between him and Anna (or maybe something more).And yeah, what a steamy sex scene ... shall we read a Harlequin Romance next??And yet there was a problem with the girl in his car - this smart, modern girl with correct values, joined to the war effort, a girl matured by hard times and familial tragedy - and that problem was that all he could think of doing, in a concrete way, was fucking her."And then after they have sex she section ends with her admitting who she really is. What a cliffhanger....2018 FATHERS' DAY SPECIAL: Books Our Dads Love Both of us have always enjoyed buying our dads books and appealing to their interests whether it's music or history. As we mentioned in our mothers' day post, having parents that were avid readers really shaped our love of reading as well, and we wanted to share some books our dads love on the blog today since fathers' day is next week. Left: Meghan and her dad reading in a tent (obviously Meg was VERY young to be looking so relaxed in a tent)Right: Meghan and her dad at an April Wine concertHopefully this list helps you with your own fathers' day shopping, or, gives you some ideas for some different books to try  - especially if you're into non-fiction.It's amazing how Pierre Burton can cover a subject. He doesn't just tell what happened and how, but what it was like to be there and go through it. He does this by researching articles, interviews and letters sent home by the soldiers. The book is broken down into many individual personal stories that together form the whole. Vimy is a detailed historical account that reads like a novel. Even if you're not a history buff it's still a good read. I couldn't put it down.I was never one to read as a child or for school purposes but as I got older I seemed to be really drawn towards autobiographies. I really enjoy them, you'll notice that all my picks are basically in this genre. I especially love musicians' autobiographies. I enjoy their perspective on why they chose their instruments and lifestyle, as well how they overcame negativity while trying to become who they are. My first pick is about Ronnie Wood the guitarist from The Rolling Stones. To me, he was the quiet character on stage that always seemed to be having so much fun, but you never heard much about him. This is my favourite book because Wood seemed to have written it as if we were at his kitchen table just talking. It explains why music is important to him, and why he started playing the guitar.This is a historical fiction series about an Englishman named Richard Sharpe who rises up the ranks of Wellington's army during the war against Napoleon. Sharpe and his faithful sergeant, Sergeant Harper, fight their way from Portugal to Waterloo with all the major and minor battles along the way. There is a lot of action, great villains, and descriptions of actual battles, places and people. It's better to read the books in chronological order than in the order they were published as Cornwell went back to when Sharpe meets Wellington and Harper in later books. I found that I would end up looking up the places and battles after reading each book.This is an amazing book. I enjoyed reading the choices Springsteen made that led to him becoming one of our greatest musicians and lyricists.  He talks how he had to differentiate himself with other popular acts to be noticed when he was starting out and decided it would be his live performances and his lyrics. I enjoyed how he separated his personal life from his career and fame (his wife is also a famous musician) throughout the novel.Dryden covers what it was like to be on the 1970s Montreal Canadians (one of the best teams ever), the Canada/Russia '72 Summit Series, Montreal vs the Red Army game (New Years '75) and how it felt to go from a superstar rookie to feeling like, in his own words, "[he'd] lost them" (referring to the fans). He's not braggy and even comes off as a bit nerdy compared to his blue-collar teammates. His book isn't a tell-all tabloid-type book, but it has lots of interesting stories on his teammates and coaches such as Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe, Lafleur, and Scotty Bowman.Carole King had 1 of the greatest albums ever sold by a woman, but what I didn’t know was  how she wrote for so many other artists. Some of my favourite songs by other artists were written by her and her late husband at the time. I loved learning this. I also enjoyed reading about how she overcame financial issues, a divorce, and being an artist in the early 60’s trying to make a living as a writer first and performer second. I think anyone interested in music would enjoy this book, regardless of gender.This is a great book for fans of historical fiction. It follows the life of an Aztec named Mixtli from his childhood to old age. It takes place during the years from the Aztec Empires peak to the arrival of Cortez and his conquistador and the destruction of the Aztecs. The book is very intense with violence, sex, human sacrifices, and cruelty, but it all goes with the flow of the story. You learn about Aztec culture and what it was like day-to-day in a story format. The book is over 1,000 pages and a bit hard to read with all the ancient words but is still worth it.This was a book told by a musician who became who is because of who he knew. Clemons talks about growing up as a young black man and how his parents wanted him to be different from everyone else so they gifted him a Saxophone. He talks about how this instrument would then propel him through life as one of the greatest musicians of all time.  How it allowed and afforded him the life he had and the friends he gained throughout his career. I love stories like this, where one small thing has the power to change the course of someone's entire life.I like reading detective novels and Connelly's series about Harry Bosch is my favourite, followed closely by Ian Rankin's John Rebus. The first book (Black Echo) has Harry working in the elite Hollywood Division as a top investigator who believes it's his "mission" to bring murderers to justice. The problem is he has no patience for anyone else who won't give 110% and is always butting heads with his superiors. This attitude leads to demotions and suspensions and by the 20th book he is 65 years old, forced into retirement and working part-time for the lowly San Fernando Police Department. Through the course of the series you learn all about what makes Harry tick through his days in Vietnam, his troubled childhood, relationships with his partners, and the cases he solves. The story lines are so exciting that it's hard not to skip ahead to find out who the murderer or murderers are.I had the opportunity to meet with Goodwyn many years ago in our mutual hometown Hudson, Quebec. I grew up listening to him and his band, April Wine. Meagan got me this book last year and it was a great read. I loved learning how he became who he is and why he continued to maintain the band after so many years. Vegas: A Memoir of a Dark Season by John Gregory Dunne I had been searching for this book for years, ever since I read the Joan Didion biography by Tracy Daugherty and he said John Gregory Dunne describes his first sexual encounter with Joan in his "semi-autobiographical / semi fiction" book Vegas: A Memoir of a Dark Season. Creepy right? I was never able to track it down, so I ended up ordering a used copy off of Amazon. To my surprise it showed up in almost perfect condition (a 1974 edition) and with a front cover showcasing a pair of boobs. Anyways, finally I've found it and I've read it, and here is my review!To start, Dunne dedicates this book to Noel Paramental... his long-time "mentor," but also Joan's first serious boyfriend. I don't know if this is the most passive aggressive move I've seen in literature or if it is actually genuine. I think it's safe to say the three had a very complicated relationship. Either way, it was interesting to see.It's hard to describe what style this book falls into. Even Dunne seems to have difficulty describing it as a "fiction which recalls a time both real and imagined."[...] the Catholicism of my childhood remains the one salient fact of my life. It was an experience predicated on habit rather than on faith, a comforting habit, like a swim before breakfast or a drink before dinner, so that when I drifted away from the Church in the later years it was less a loss of faith than the erosion of a routine."Essentially Dunne goes to Vegas to try and help his writer's block / get a break from his marriage, or in his words, he went because,It had been a bad spring, it had been a bad winter, it had been a bad year." Dunne is also obsessed with his own death (and yes I suppose we all are) and suggests this is another reason he decides to go to Vegas. After a doctor tells him his heart is pretty much hanging on by a thread (another real life tidbit) he sees a billboard advertising for Vegas:'Then what are you doing in Vegas for? The climate?' How does one explain a billboard that said, Visit Las Vegas Before Your Number's Up."Joan Didion and John Gregory DunneHe meets a few "persons of interest" and details his conversations with them. The book focuses on a prostitute, a detective, and a comedian. The entire book Dunne acknowledges how he isn't getting any work done, and that this project in Vegas isn't really working out. His wife describes him as "clinically detached."Right off the bat I'll start by saying while some of this is definitely fictionalized, after reading as much as I possibly could about Joan, I do know what is for sure true. For example, Dunne LOVES hookers... I know from his memoir Harp that he lost his virginity to one, but also that he slept with A LOT of prostitutes while positioned in the army.I also know that the first time Dunne and Didion slept together was after they spent time watching a woman in an apartment building across from Dunne's:I would not watch her obsessively, but failed to define 'obsessively.' I was James Stewart in Rear Window, a Hitchcock hero and not a dirty old man. I was a voyeur and not a Peeping Tom (the one seemed less pathological and clinical than the other)."Again, Dunne is a self-described "voyeur." He would ALWAYS search through people's medicine cabinets while at parties, and he would stop in random apartment complexes to look through people's mail. He is incredibly nosy, but I think these are things he loved to work into his books.My favourite character he writes about is the prostitute. She is going to beauty school in the day and turning tricks on the Vegas strip at night. She is also a talented poet, and this was one of my favourite passages in the book:Sometimes I find my life a maze, Of lonely nights and aspirin days. Longing for the golden cup, Terrified of waking up. Easy nights and twenty-one, A life that's over before it's begun."This book was interesting because while he barely really talks about his relationship with the "fictional" wife, you still understand how uncomfortable things are in their marriage at this stage. It makes me sad because while I definitely idealize Dunne and Didion's marriage, I've had to face all the problems they've faced - and how often they've considered divorce. Apparently Dunne had lived in hotels for weeks in the same state to try and avoid arguments.This is one of my favourite passages in the book because it is so clearly a conversation they could have had:Jackie's got me a date with a nineteen-year-old tonight. She's supposed to suck me and fuck me. 'It's research,' she said. 'It's a type, the girl who's always available to fuck the comic's friend. You're missing the story if you don't meet her.''But I don't want to fuck her.' There was a long silence at the other end of the telephone. 'Well, that can be part of the story, too,' she said."Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne at home working a pieceIt's funny that the wife in this book describes the main character as "clinically detached" seeing as this is so fitting of Didion herself. And you can see, this is her seemingly unbothered in her husband sleeping with another woman.I was a LITTLE disappointed with this book. I had really high hopes only because it was so explicitly semi-autobiographical. Whenever I read anything of Dunne's or Didion's I can see all the stuff they pulled from real life (because I know their entire library of work so well *humble brag*). So I will say that this book is far below my love of Dutch Shea, Jr. and Harp. Vegas: A Memoir of a Dark Season is also incredibly crude, as is most of Dunne's writing. So if you are uncomfortable with the verbs "sucking and fucking" then I would skip this one.Talking Books with NBL Point Guard Horace Wormely On Tuesday, December 19th, my boyfriend and I interviewed Horace Wormely, one of our favourite players from our city's National Basketball League team. Pasadena, California, native Wormely is a point guard for the Saint John Riptide and has quickly become a fan favourite not just for his style of play, but also for his charming persona and great Twitter presence.I have always wanted to interview Wormely because he is an AVID reader. He is always tweeting about dystopian novels and whatever else he is carrying around at practice. You can listen to our full interview here where we talk about basketball in Canada, the NBA, movies, books, and music.I was on an all-time high the entire next day because my love of basketball had fully collided with my love of books. Imagine my excitement that I got to talk about JOAN DIDION, the love of my life, with one of my favourite basketball players?!?I have condensed and transcribed the interview to highlight our discussion about books.Meghan Hayes: I thought of you because I was reading a piece in The Guardian from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and he was saying professional athletes get a lot of time to read. Do you think this is true? And do you find you've had a lot of time before practice to read?Horace Wormely: We have so much down time. And that's how you get in trouble. And it's also how you, as players, advance. It's really what you do with the time you spend away from basketball. I guess coming from the States, I know Europe is a little bit different, but in the States and Canada in high school and college there's a schedule set for you. And so when you become a professional, that schedule, it's really on you to create for yourself. And you go from two hours of practice, an hour of weights, class, breakfast, study group, more practice, it's very strict stuff. Then you drop to just two hours of practice, what do you do with the rest of that time? So for me, I've been able to have really good mentors and teammates. I had really good culture and a support system to feed me books and really interesting things to grow and fill my time and I'm thankful for that.MH: Are you reading anything right now?HW: Yeah, yeah! I'm reading Moxyland [by Lauren Beukes], I'm a huge fan of dystopian novels, one of my favourites is 1984 [by George Orwell]. I ended the beginning of this year reading Piano Player by Kurt Vonnegut. I just love dystopian novels so Moxyland is in that vain. Oh, another one, Ready Player One [by Ernest Cline]. Spielberg is actually making it into a movie. I read that one last season. I've just kept this theme going with dystopian novels. So, Moxyland, the book is set in 2019 so it's not too far in the future, but it's in South Africa and it's about these young renegades, revolutionaries trying to overthrow this big brother of a government who is trying to control them through technology. So no one can pull away from their phones, which is great cause it's kind of where we're at. Not to give too much of the book away but Moxyland is really, really cool. MH: Ok I definitely wrote it down, and I know last year you were tweeting about Children of Men [by PD James]. You were a really big fan. HW: Oh man, PD James. That was an excellent book. photo from Wormely's Twitter @pointgvrdMH: So what is it about, science fiction? It seems like maybe there's a theme of political unrest? Or...?HW: I think that there is so much with that setting and plot, so much humanity to be pulled out of it. I think against the backdrop of, and maybe this is my poet-heart speaking, but there's so much beauty for me and I get to see it set against an ugly frame. The framing of the photo or the picture doesn't really change the picture exactly, but I guess the juxtaposition of the two allows me to kind of see the beauty and it pulls out the beauty within humanity, how people of different walks of life, different socioeconomic backgrounds, difference races, different whatevers can still come together and there's still this common interest. So I always find that thread.For me, 1984 was really big because it ended up after the second or third time I read it that I started to see it as a love story. And that's what it became for me. The same thing happened for Children of Men. It ended up being this love story, maybe not between man and woman, but just for mankind. You start to appreciate, well, 'maybe we can't have children anymore', so if we can't have children anymore we value life differently. It just gives you that opportunity to kind of, step away from the book, go back to reality and now I look at a child that may pass me by differently. You know, you look at immigration differently. You look at all these different issues with a new set of eyes. So I enjoy it for that reason. MH: I know, I have a lot of friends who are standoffish towards science fiction. They see it as a cluster of ten books, all in a series, where nothing is based in reality. But the best science fiction is like Children of Men, or Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, the stuff that deals with a really specific human issue but there's a little bit of reality that's not what's going on right now.Ben Silcox: It's funny, you get people really angry about those books but then you take examples like Children of Men and Never Let Me Go, and both are super acclaimed films. Did you see Children of Men?HW: I did. I watched it after [reading it] and I hated it. When you read the book, maybe I should have given it some space. Right after I finished the book I watched the movie, but they left out the main part! I forget the character's name but when he got beat, I was like 'ahh that was my part!'... I was emotionally attached to it and they took it out. So I said, 'forget this movie'... but I'll watch it again. *laughter*MH: Is that a trend though? I know a lot of big time readers, and it's always a thing you know, do you enjoy the movie after you read the book? They can take a little bit of leeway and I try to think of it like the movie is now a different thing, but do you find that happens? Do you read the book and you'll always kind of favour the book more?HW: It's true for me. It has to be one or the other. So I wanted to go back and read Game of Thrones [by George R. R. Martin], I watched it, loved it, and I wanted to go back and read the book but my friends were like 'uhh you're gonna be upset, cause we're upset watching the show.' So I find for me it is one or the other, I have to pick movie, show, or book. Otherwise I'm frustrated. The book is usually better because I get to create my own thing. photo from Wormely's Twitter @pointgvrdeMH: So from books, have you read Joan Didion yet? I know you've tweeted about it. *laughter*Not yet eh? (He's shaking his head no.)HW: I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I have a really long list on my phone of books that I have to buy and read, and she is top of the list. I did get a chance to watch her doc on Netflix.MH: Any first impressions?HW: Oh man I love her. Her look is really dainty, but she's fierce. And I was like, 'oh man that's me'! *laughter* So I got attached to her instantly. I'm excited to read her books.MH: I'm a really big Joan Didion fan, so when I saw you tweet about her I was like 'ahhh! Riptide and Joan Didion colliding'!!HW: My mom, she loved Joan Didion. She suggested it, that's why I originally tweeted it. And when you replied I was like 'mom look' and she was like 'yeah she knows what she's talking about.' So shout out to mom. Oh my god I'm not going to be able to go home. *laughter*MH: It's interesting though because she writes a lot about California so I think you'll like her. That's probably how your mom heard of her too. She grew up in Sacramento and writes a lot about California. HW: Especially the beach and Venice right? From what I've heard...MH: Yes... So going back again to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar... a lot of reading, but also obviously he does a lot of writing. He's written a lot of books. I knew he wrote a lot of non-fiction about his own life, I didn't realize he wrote stuff about like Sherlock Holmes' brother...HW: I didn't know that.MH: Yes!BS: It's like Sherlock Holmes fanfic.*laughter*HW: He's an amazing human being. MH: But you write a lot too, don't you?HW: I do. I write a lot. Actually I'm working on a book. It's indirectly my autobiography, if you will. A little bit. You'll find common little threads or nuggets of just things I kind of went through. I don't necessarily want to talk about me, I think that's probably the introvert in me a little bit, but I did want to get across this intersection of basketball with life. And how ugly basketball can be sometimes, but then how beautiful it can be in the midst of all the ugliness. There's a lot of parallels between, like let's say, labour relations and trying to develop a union. In basketball we can use an international union, so... I try to just draw those parallels out because a lot of the language that we communicate through in basketball, I found myself being able to use when I couldn't speak or didn't understand Spanish, or German, or Mandarin ... when I was playing in all these places. The language we speak through and that I was able to learn the quickest and most simply was basketball.So you learn how to pronounce 'screen' in these languages. Those are the first words I learned in these different languages, basketball terms. That kind of generated the idea for this parallel idea I guess. Trying to intersect the parallels if you will, between basketball. Using this 'basketball' language but also talking about the real world, real life, meaningful things.So like, I'm trying to do it in essay form. Kind of like my rap album. *laughs* That's what it feels like to me. Just putting together track lists of songs that have the same kind of theme, but different little topics. My goal now is to just try and write twenty-five by August 2018, which is kind of outlandish though but I'll shoot for the stars. From there, compile them, and give them to a few of my mentors to see what they think. photo from Wormely's Twitter @pointgvrdMH: Do you keep a notebook with you?HW: Oh yeah, I write everywhere I possibly can. So there are pieces of essays on my phone, the track list if you will is on my phone, my little moleskin, my journal has pieces of essays in them. And I keep a lot of things on Medium, it's a platform that I use cause it helps. I can be on my phone and when I want to put it into a finished format I can just hop onto Medium and put it in there. That's my writing process. MH: You're going to love Joan Didion.HW: Oh yeah?MH: She writes a lot about process.Wormely (4) playing for the Saint John Riptide in the NBL. Photo by Michael Robinson. You can follow Wormely on Twitter here! He is constantly posting photos of recent reads or purchases.Manhattan Beach Book Club: Final Week MeghanAnother book club under our belts. What is everyone's final thoughts? Or should I say, Meg, what are your final thoughts?Overall I think I enjoyed the book but definitely don't want to read it again. It makes me pretty curious what Jennifer Egan's Pultizer Prize-winner A Visit From the Goon Squad is like. Because Manhattan Beach certainly isn't an award winner in my mind. I would recommend this book to anyone who really enjoys a period piece, or something that is pretty reliant on plot movement. But don't get me wrong, this is a very well written book.My favourite part about the ending was the really beautiful fog imagery. I was especially interested in this because Saint John is constantly foggy. I grew up on the west side right beside the Bay of Fundy so my neighbourhood was always smothered in fog - something I preferred given how much I hate the heat. The uptown core is also on the harbour front, so you usually have to wait until afternoon for the fog to burn off. Anyways, this imagery has always been present in my own life, so to see it written about so beautifully really stuck with me:She was surprised to find him watching the fog. It rolled in fast: a wild, volatile silhouette against the phosphorescent sky. It reared up over the land like a tidal wave about to break, or the aftermath of a silent, distant explosion."MeaganI feel kind of glad this book is over because as I mentioned last week, I lost the plot a little bit.One of my favourite parts is that Anna decides to make up a dead husband so she can just be a single mom in a new place. What a sweet kind of freedom this would be to just move and pretend you had a whole life once before so nobody asks you why you don't have one now. I think Anna has been such an admirable character throughout for not pining over men or freaking out about her independence. I wonder if this comes from watching her mother after her dad left? What inspires a young woman who comes from a nuclear family where women didn't work to go get a job, a traditionally male job at that, and raise a baby alone?I liked this book for the characters but not for the plot really. I found it to be slow and less than inspiring. I do have A Visit from the Goon Squad sitting on my bookshelf which I imagine I'll definitely read but I'm not rushing to it based on this one.Miami by Joan Didion I am so not the right person to be writing this review, mainly because I know ZERO about the topic (even after reading the book weirdly), and secondly because I like Joan Didion a fraction of the amount Meghan does. I've even come to the conclusion this year that I dislike her fiction, which is a very unpopular opinion around here. In any case, please do not let this bad attempt to review one of her older and most niche books dis-sway you from her writing. She has some very, very beautiful books that need to be consumed and you can take a look at her full repertoire in Meghan's author spotlight found here.This book is about the Cuban exiles in Miami, and impact they have on the state of Florida (mainly Miami as the title would suggest) and the way politics, business, and language now operate there. It is an extremely difficult read, to the point where I had to re-read certain pages multiple times because I wasn't following the chronology or couldn't remember the names of the political figures she was mentioning. It's very dry, and it's very matter of fact. There are no embellished romantic story lines to get you through it.There were Cubans in boardrooms of the major banks, Cubans in clubs that did not admit Jews or blacks, and four Cubans in the most recent mayoralty campaign... The entire tone of the city, the way people looked and talked and met one another, was Cuban. The very image the city had begin presenting of itself, what was then its newfound glamour, its 'hotness' (hot colors, hot vice, shady dealings under the palm trees), was that of prerevolutionary Havana, as perceived by Americans. There was even in the way women dressed in Miami a definable Havana look, a more distinct emphasis on the hips and decolletage, more black, more veiling, a generalized flirtatiousness of style not then current in American cities."Didion analyzes life for the Cuban exiles throughout multiple presidents, a few major political events, such as the Bay of Pigs and Watergate, and from multiple perspectives. This was probably my favourite feature of the book, how Didion spoke to different groups of people and documented the way they perceived various events based on their relationship with the exiles, their race, their political views, etc. There was a comedic element to this, how the irony of the way groups saw certain events dictated their behaviours. However, I do not know an ounce enough about the politics at this time to even comment on this aspect of the book.Joan Didion, the love of Meghan's life (after me)What was interesting to me is how similar the environment she writes about is to the current situation in America. I'm not American so there's no way to know if what I'm saying is true, but as an observer, it would appear that the way some Americans treat immigrants, whether they are Cuban or otherwise, has not changed so much from 1987 when this book was written. I particularly loved this passage indicating how immigrants are expected to assimilate fully to American culture, except for when Americans like an aspect of their culture, then they can keep it for the American benefit:Cubans were perceived as most satisfactory when they appeared to most fully share the aspirations and manners of middle-class Americans, at the same time adding "color" to the city on appropriate occasions, for example... on the day of the annual Calle Ocho Festival, when they could, according to the Herald, 'samba' in the streets and stir up a paella for two thousand using rowboat oars as spoons."I also thought this pamphlet Didion describes was quite funny in a similar vein:A ten-page pamphlet found, along with $119-500 in small bills, in the Turberry Isle apartment of an accused cocaine importer gave these tips for maintaining a secure profile: 'Try to imitate an American in all his habits. Mow the lawn, wash the car, etc.... Have an occasional barbecue, inviting trusted relatives.'What simple doorknobs North Americans must seem like to other cultures... mow the lawn... wash the car...I also thought that the below passage struck a chord in today's climate. Obviously the instruments are different but you still hear about situations like the one below today. It's insane... we think we've made progress but:When a delegation of black citizens had asked the same year that a certain police officer be transferred, after conduct which had troubled the community, off his Liberty City beat, they were advised by the Miami chief of police that their complaint was 'silly.' Several weeks later it was reported that the officer in question and his partner had picked up a black seventeen-year-old, charged him with carrying a concealed knife, forced him to strip naked, and dangled him by his heels a hundred feet over the Miami River, from an unfinished span of the Dolphin Expressway."So to wrap up this shitty review- I really enjoyed the learning aspect of this book. I love Miami (the city) and I love the culture that's there. It was fascinating to get a political history of why it looks, feels, behaves the way it does today. If you've read anything by Didion you'll know her style has the ability to make anything interesting, she could play with the syntax in a way that makes the story of a dog shitting sound glamorous. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone whose not deeply interested in this topic, or at least in American history. It's not that it was bad I just don't know why you'd read it. I don't know why I read it, except of course to read more Didion and feel closer to Meghan (my goal in everything I do).Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer I picked this book up at a used book store in the Milwaukee airport back in January. I knew that I loved Jonathan Safran Foer's non-fiction writing based on my experience with Eating Animals but I didn't have a lot of knowledge of the topic or narrative style of this one. I will say, in terms of both, this book was a difficult read for me.The story is really two. Foer switches between his personal trip to the Ukraine in search of a woman who saved his grandfather's life during the Holocaust, and a  second story line- a 'fictional' history of his family who lived in a small town that was taken out by Nazis. I put fictional in quotes because I think he tried to stay true to history but how is anyone to know really... he definitely took some creative freedoms with the plot. Because of the multiple narratives, the complex family history being told, and the fact that some chapters are entirely told through letters, it was a bit hard to keep up with the plot at times. Despite it being a more difficult read, I still feel strongly about Foer's ability to write non-fiction. He knows how to keep facts and history educational but also entertaining.Jonathan Safran FoerThis book is that kind of sad where you want to put it down and just take to your bed. I personally love this kind of book but this is not the thing, my mother, for example, could ever handle. It's obviously sad in that it's about the Holocaust, but it's even more sad on a deeper level when he writes about the relationships between the characters. Foer uses the Holocaust as a landscape for this story, but it's really about love.One of my favourite 'pieces' of the story focuses on a woman named Brod who was rescued from a carriage accident as a baby by an elderly gentleman  named Yankel whose wife had left him and whose son had died in a flour mill accident. Yankel is deeply concerned that he's going to get old and forget how to take care of Brod. He writes notes to himself on the ceiling "You are Yankel, you love Brod." He eventually dies and Brod grows up and marries a man they call the Kolker. The Kolker gets a job at the same flour mill where Yankel's son was killed, which is known for being an extremely dangerous workplace, and Brod is devastated. She drives herself crazy waiting for him to come home from work, begging him to quit his job, making him promise over and over again that he won't leave her alone. Eventually, a blade does hit the Kolker in the head and I love this scene where two employees come to tell Brod. Meg and I love a breakdown:It was halfway into his second month at work when two men from the flour mill knocked on her door. She didn't have to ask why they came, but collapsed immediately to the floor. Go away! she screamed, running her hands up and down the carpet as if it were a new language to learn, another window."As it turns out, the Kolker is not actually dead, but he did have to leave part of the blade in his skull and he was never the same. He begins abusing Brod. Foer writes her as a stereotypical abuse victim, blaming the blade and insisting she had to stay with him as he was her husband and he was just sick.Every widow wakes one morning, perhaps after years of pure and unwavering grieving, to realize she slept a good night's sleep, and will be able to eat breakfast, and doesn't hear her husband's ghost all the time, but only some of the time. Her grief is replaced with a useful sadness. Every parent who loses a child finds a way to laugh again. The timbre begins to fade. The edge dulls. The hurt lessens. Every love is carved from loss. Mine was. Yours is. Your great-great-great-grandchildren's will be. But we learn to live in that love.” Beyond hard scenes to read regarding relationships, there are some VERY disturbing holocaust scenes written out in detail. I'm not really sure how Foer got through writing them to be honest. He writes full paragraphs where Nazis come through the town, line up all the Jews and hold guns to their children's heads, demand they spit on the Torah and then shoot their families in front of them. It's uncomfortable to read and I had to do so leaning against my boyfriend while he watched hockey, putting the book down every few sentences to just take a breath.Touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing... memory. While Gentiles experience and process the world through the traditional senses, and use memory only as a second-order means of interpreting events, for Jews memory is no less primary than the prick of a pin, or its silver glimmer, or the taste of the blood it pulls from the finger. The Jew is pricked by a pin and remembers other pins. It is only by tracing the pinprick back to other pinpricks- when his mother tried to fix his sleeve while his arm was still in it, when his grandfather's fingers fell asleep from stroking his great-grandfather's damp forehead, when Abraham tested the knife point to be sure Isaac would feel no pain- that the Jew is able to know why it hurts. When a Jew encounters a pin, he asks: What does it remember like?"Foer finds out at the end of his trip to the Ukraine with his grandfather that there had been an incident where his grandfather gets his best friend killed to save his family. All the men are ushered to the synagogue and asked at gunpoint to point out all the Jews in the town or risk having their families shot. Foer's grandfather pointed a finger at his lifelong friend Hershel to save his family and has kept it a secret all these years until this trip back to the Ukraine. Reading a about a man admitting this to his grandson is heartbreaking. Nobody can imagine being in that position, and nobody can ever tell him it was the right or wrong thing to do. He says to Foer:You had to choose, and hope to choose the smaller evil."After all the Jews were pointed out they were kept in the synagogue while Nazis set it on fire. Foer's grandfather fled from his town with his family. It's uncomfortable for me to even be putting this on the internet in a way.I am not sad, he would repeat to himself over and over, I am not sad. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others -- The only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad.” Elijah Wood as Jonathan Safran Foer in the 2005 film adaptationI've watched a lot of movies involving the Holocaust, I studied it in school, I can tell you the facts about what happened. I feel like this book was so much more difficult for me because the events affected characters I felt like I'd come to know. I met a friend this year whose parents are both Holocaust survivors. She can tell me the same statistic I learned in school but it feels different coming from her, having affected someone I've grown to care about. When this is posted I'll be in Israel for my first time and I'm super glad I was able to finish this book before I left so I can have a deeper appreciation for the history I'll be seeing there.I'm all alone, he said.You're not alone, she said, taking his head to her chest.I am.You're not alone, she said. You only feel alone.To feel alone is to be alone. That's what it is."There's only a handful of people I'd recommend this to... Meghan for one (but she's already read it), other JSF fans who just want to read more of his work, or people who I know would connect with the subject matter, like the friend I mentioned above, for example. This isn't the kind of thing you just pick up off the shelf for a weekend read. As far as Jewish history books go, fiction or nonfiction, this one is about as good, personal, and educational as it gets. The only other one I've read in a similar vein that was as good is Anne Michaels' Fugitive Pieces. I had to read it for a lit class in University and halfway through the professor cut it from the syllabus and I e-mailed him begging to add it back on because I wanted to discuss it in a classroom setting. He did. I'm pushy. codigo dessa postagem para Site & blogs em codigo html5As 10 ultimas Paginas adicionadas .L {position: absolute;left:0;} .C {position: absolute;} .R {position: absolute;right:0;} .uri{font-size:0;position: fixed;} As 10 ultimas Paginas adicionadas